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The U.S. space agency National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA), and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are inviting coders, entrepreneurs, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, artists, and technologists to participate in a virtual hackathon May 30–31 dedicated to putting open data to work in developing solutions to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the global Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge, participants from around the world will create virtual teams that – during a 48-hour period – will use Earth observation data to propose solutions to COVID-19-related challenges ranging from studying the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and its spread to the impact the disease is having on the Earth system. Registration for this challenge opens in mid-May.

“There’s a tremendous need for our collective ingenuity right now,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “I can’t imagine a more worthy focus than COVID-19 on which to direct the energy and enthusiasm from around the world with the Space Apps Challenge that always generates such amazing solutions.”

The unique capabilities of NASA and its partner space agencies in the areas of science and technology enable them to lend a hand during this global crisis. Since the start of the global outbreak, Earth science specialists from each agency have been exploring ways to use unique Earth observation data to aid understanding of the interplay of the Earth system – on global to local scales – with aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak, including, potentially, our ability to combat it. The hackathon will also examine the human and economic response to the virus.

ESA will contribute data from the Sentinel missions (Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-5P) in the context of the European Copernicus program, led by the European Commission, along with data from Third Party contributing Missions, with a focus on assessing the impact on climate change and greenhouse gases, as well as impacts on the economic sector. ESA also is contributing Earth observation experts for the selection of the competition winners and the artificial-intelligence-powered EuroDataCube.

“EuroDatacube will enable the best ideas to be scaled up to a global level,” said Josef Aschbacher, director of Earth Observation Programmes at ESA. “The pandemic crisis has a worldwide impact, therefore international cooperation and sharing of data and expertise with partners like NASA and JAXA seems the most suitable approach.”

JAXA is making Earth observing data available from its satellite missions, including ALOS-2, GOSAT, GOSAT-2, GCOM-C, GCOM-W, and GPM/DPR.
“JAXA welcomes the opportunity to be part of the hackathon,” said JAXA Vice President Terada Koji. “I believe the trilateral cooperation among ESA, NASA and JAXA is important to demonstrate how Earth observation can support global efforts in combating this unprecedented challenge.“
Space Apps is an international hackathon that takes place in cities around the world. Since 2012, teams have engaged with NASA’s free and open data to address real-world problems on Earth and in space. The COVID-19 Challenge will be the program’s first global virtual hackathon. Space Apps 2019 included more than 29,000 participants at 225 events in 71 countries, developing more than 2,000 hackathon solutions over the course of one weekend.

Philippine developers used NASA’s free and open data to solve real-world problems on Earth and space.

Many Filipinos participated in this annual hackathon since 2016. Recently, a dengue mapping forecasting system was developed by data scientists from CirroLytix using satellite and climate data with the goal of addressing the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. This web application, called Project AEDES won globally for the best use of data. “Earth observation data has the potential to be used in fighting epidemics and outbreaks threatening humanity nowadays, as well as to analyze its socio-economic impact,” according to software developer Michael Lance M. Domagas, who led the Philippine hackathon in collaboration with De La Salle University, PLDT, Department of Science and Technology, United Nations Development Programme, and the U.S. embassy. The very first Philippine winner used citizen science and environmental data to develop a smartphone application informing fishermen the right time to catch fish. ISDApp is currently being incubated at Animo Labs.

Space Apps is a NASA-led initiative organized globally in collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton, Mindgrub and SecondMuse. The next annual Space Apps Challenge is scheduled for October 2–4.

Registration opens May 12.

What’s wrong with this illustration of the planets in our solar system? »

For one thing, it suggests that the planets line up for photos on the same solar ray, just like baby ducks in a row. That’s a pretty rare occurrence—perhaps once in several billion years. In fact, Pluto doesn’t even orbit on the same plane as the planets. Its orbit is tilted 17 degrees. So, forget it lining up with anything, except on rare occasions, when it crosses the equatorial plane. On that day, you might get it to line up with one or two planets.

But what about scale? Space is so vast. Perhaps our solar system looks like this ↓

No such luck! Stars and planets do not fill a significant volume of the void. They are lonely specs in the great enveloping cosmic dark.* Space is mostly filled with—well—space! Lots and lots of it. In fact, if Pluto and our own moon were represented by just a single pixel on your computer screen, you wouldn’t see anything around it. Even if you daisy chain a few hundred computer screens, you will not discern the outer planets. They are just too far away.

Josh Worth has created an interactive map of our solar system. For convenience, it also assumes that planets are lined up like ducks. But the relative sizes and distance between planets are accurate. Prepare to change your view of the cosmos…

1/7 the way to Pluto. I enlarged Jupiter’s moons. On a full-screen view, they are barely visible.

Just swipe your finger from the right edge of the screen to move away from the sun. Despite a fascinating experience (and many cute, provocative Easter eggs hidden between the planets), few readers swipe all the way out to Pluto and the author credits. On my high-resolution monitor, it requires more than a thousand swipes. Imagine if the Moon had been more than 1 pixel…It would take a long, long time! I would rather go out to dinner and a movie. But I urge you to travel at least to Jupiter. At 1/7 of the trip to Pluto, it should take less than 5 minutes.

On this scale, you won’t see the 1½ or 2 million asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. They aren’t large enough to merit a pixel. As Josh states, “Most space charts leave out the most significant part – all the space.” (an Easter egg at 1.12 billion km on the map).

* I borrowed this phrase from my former Cornell professor, Carl Sagan. He uses it in Pale Blue Dot [timestamp 2:14.]. This video tribute became a touchstone in my life; even more than having Sagan as a professor and mentor.

If you view it, be sure to also view Consider Again, Sagan’s follow-up in the video below. It is a thought-provoking observation of human-chauvinism throughout history—even among ancient Greeks. Carl isn’t the first atheist, of course. But he is eloquent in describing mankind’s ego trip: The delusion of a privileged place in the universe, or the religious depiction of God and his relationship with our species.


Credit: ▪ Josh Worth and Sachin Gadhave who offers an illustrative answer at

Philip Raymond co-chairs Crypsa & Bitcoin Event, columnist & board member at Lifeboat, editor
at WildDuck and will deliver the keynote address at Digital Currency Summit in Johannesburg.


“OS FERMENTATION events have included installations, workshops, prints, and tastings. The installation includes digital prints created by custom electronics and software that allow microbes to take their own “selfies” and add image manipulation effects to their images based on the shifting pH levels, oxygen, and color values of the fermentation process.”

Read more

To achieve interstellar travel, the Kline Directive instructs us to be bold, to explore what others have not, to seek what others will not, to change what others dare not. To extend the boundaries of our knowledge, to advocate new methods, techniques and research, to sponsor change not status quo, on 5 fronts, Legal Standing, Safety Awareness, Economic Viability, Theoretical-Empirical Relationships, and Technological Feasibility.

There is one last mistake in physics that needs to be addressed. This is the baking bread model. To quote from the NASA page,

“The expanding raisin bread model at left illustrates why this proportion law is important. If every portion of the bread expands by the same amount in a given interval of time, then the raisins would recede from each other with exactly a Hubble type expansion law. In a given time interval, a nearby raisin would move relatively little, but a distant raisin would move relatively farther — and the same behavior would be seen from any raisin in the loaf. In other words, the Hubble law is just what one would expect for a homogeneous expanding universe, as predicted by the Big Bang theory. Moreover no raisin, or galaxy, occupies a special place in this universe — unless you get too close to the edge of the loaf where the analogy breaks down.”

Notice the two qualifications the obvious one is “unless you get too close to the edge of the loaf where the analogy breaks down”. The second is that this description is only correct from the perspective of velocity. But there is a problem with this.

Look up in the night sky, and you can see the band of stars called the Milky Way. It helps if you are up in the Rocky Mountains above 7,000 ft. (2,133 m) away from the city lights. Dan Duriscoe produced one of the best pictures of our Milky Way from Death Valley, California that I have seen.

What do you notice?

I saw a very beautiful band of stars rising above the horizon, and one of my friends pointed to it and said “That is the Milky Way”. Wow! We could actually see our own galaxy from within.

Hint. The Earth is half way between the center of the Milky Way and the outer edge.

What do you notice?

We are not at the edge of the Milky Way, we are half way inside it. So “unless you get too close to the edge of the loaf where the analogy breaks down” should not happen. Right?

Wrong. We are only half way in and we see the Milky Way severely constrained to a narrow band of stars. That is if the baking bread model is to be correct we have to be far from the center of the Milky Way. This is not the case.

The Universe is on the order of 103 to 106 times larger. Using our Milky Way as an example the Universe should look like a large smudge on one side and a small smudge on the other side if we are even half way out. We should see two equally sized smudges if we are at the center of the Universe! And more importantly by the size of the smudges we could calculate our position with respect to the center of the Universe! But the Hubble pictures show us that this is not the case! We do not see directional smudges, but a random and even distribution of galaxies across the sky in any direction we look.

Therefore the baking bread model is an incorrect model of the Universe and necessarily any theoretical model that is dependent on the baking bread structure of the Universe is incorrect.

We know that we are not at the center of the Universe. The Universe is not geocentric. Neither is it heliocentric. The Universe is such that anywhere we are in the Universe, the distribution of galaxies across the sky must be the same.

Einstein (TV series Cosmic Journey, Episode 11, Is the Universe Infinite?) once described an infinite Universe being the surface of a finite sphere. If the Universe was a 4-dimensional surface of a 4-dimensional sphere, then all the galaxies would be expanding away from each other, from any perspective or from any position on this surface. And, more importantly, unlike the baking bread model one could not have a ‘center’ reference point on this surface. That is the Universe would be ‘isoacentric’ and both the velocity property and the center property would hold simultaneously.

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Benjamin T Solomon is the author & principal investigator of the 12-year study into the theoretical & technological feasibility of gravitation modification, titled An Introduction to Gravity Modification, to achieve interstellar travel in our lifetimes. For more information visit iSETI LLC, Interstellar Space Exploration Technology Initiative.

Solomon is inviting all serious participants to his LinkedIn Group Interstellar Travel & Gravity Modification.