Nasa have launched a new website called “Be A Martian” which invites users to play games while helping the space agency to sort through hundreds of thousands of images of the Red Planet.
So many photos have been returned by spacecraft since the 1960s that scientists have got no chance of checking them all themselves, so they’ve turned to crowdsourciing.
Visitors to the site are greeted with a suitably sci-fi looking scene and asked:
Mixing real science with fun, the various games invite users to earn points by taking on tasks like lining up surface images (this job isn’t easy) and recording the number and size of impact craters.
Nasa hopes that the public interaction will help inspire the planetary scientists of tomorrow.
“We really need the next generation of explorers,” says Michelle Viotti, from the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is in charge of Mars missions.
“And we’re also accomplishing something important for Nasa. There’s so much data coming back from Mars. Having a wider crowd look at the data, classify it and help understand its meaning is very important.”
Powered byMicrosoft’s Windows Azure Platform and using the company’s Silverlight interface, the scale of the site is impressive, and Marc Mercuri from Microsoft was quick to big up the project:
The beauty of this type of experience is that it not only teaches people about Mars and the work Nasa is doing there, but it also engages a large group of people to help solve real challenges that computers cannot solve by themselves.