Space seems to be the perfect breeding ground for crowdsourcing projects. It is vast and beautiful, generating mountains of data and inspiring ordinary people to participate by giving them a role in space exploration. Galaxy Zoo, Stardust@home, and SetiQuest are only some examples of prominent crowdsourcing projects in the space sciences field. You can now add one more to the list: Zooniverseâ€™s Ice Hunters project is giving the public the opportunity to help decide where NASAâ€™s New Horizons spacecraft will be heading after leaving Pluto behind.
Because the New Horizon spacecraft only has enough fuel to explore one additional object, Zooniverse has set up a list of potential targets in the Kuiper Belt. The problem is that these potential targets are telescopic images of deep space that computers have trouble analyzing. Zooniverse plans to use the power of crowdsourcing to help them sift through the images and identify suitable destinations.
Weâ€™re flying by a new kind of planet and weâ€™ll be making the most distant encounters with planetary bodies in the history of space exploration. We hope the public will be excited to join in with us and with Zooniverse to make a little history of their own by discovering our next flyby target after Pluto.
Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of the Southwest Research Institute
Anyone interested in participating in the project can do so at the Ice Hunters website.
About New Horizons
New Horizons is a NASA mission launched in January 2006. It passed by Jupiter in 2007 and is expected to reach Pluto and its moons in 2015. The New Horizons spacecraft has flown over 3 billion miles, farther than any previous mission from Earth. The destination eventually chosen by the Ice Hunters will become the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft from Earth.