Artist rendition of a window view of Earth from a spaceship. The view shows Earth and parts of a spaceship with sparks.
September 27th 2021 by Julie Chamberlain, Global Organizing Team (GO Team)

Hello Space Apps Community!

With less than five days until the kick-off of Space Apps 2021 (October 2-3), we want to share a little more about some of the 28 challenges that you can choose from. Get ready!


Each year thousands of people across the globe gather on Space Apps weekend to form teams and create projects to try and solve one of the Space Apps challenges created by NASA experts. The challenges cover a diverse range of topics across space exploration and Earth science. All of the challenges highlight some of the pressing issues we face on Earth and in space, while showcasing the incredible treasure trove of open data — maintained by NASA and our space agency partners — that can be used to address these challenges. Participants use the data resources included with each challenge to “solve” the challenge. The projects are then evaluated by local judges and space agency experts, and winners are selected.

This year, we have 28 challenges for you to choose from the biggest selection yet! Whether you are a coder, scientist, designer, storyteller, maker, builder, or technologist — and whether you’re a Space Apps veteran or a newbie — there is something for everyone! For example, some of our challenges ask you to flex your technology and software skills. Leveraging AI/MI for Plastic Marine Debris, for instance, asks you to utilize the most advanced technology to help protect our coastal areas, oceans, and waterways. Likewise, The Trail to Mars: Can You Keep Your Crew Alive? asks participants to create a game simulating making a voyage to Mars and back — all while taking into account the biggest risks involved in human spaceflight. If you’re looking to design a piece of hardware, check out Let It Go (Without A Bang). For this challenge, participants will design a mechanical separation device for use in space that does not rely on pyrotechnics — which is currently one of most used methods. The goal is to find a way to separate spacecraft parts in a manner that is less violent and lower impact.

Other challenges ask you to showcase your artistic side! For example, Artfully Illuminated Asteroids invites you to create a work of art in the medium of your choice — a painting, drawing, sculpture, dance, 2D or 3D computer-generated product, or something else entirely! The creative freedom is yours. This challenge and the Webb Origami Design Challenge both spark creativity while also bringing attention to important upcoming NASA launches.

The Lucy Mission to the Trojan asteroids will launch in October 2021, and the James Webb Space Telescope — the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built — is scheduled to launch in December 2021. If you’re interested in winning our NEW Art and Technology Global Award, these challenges are for you.

If you’re looking for a “youth-friendly” challenge, check out SuperpowEARTH. It asks participants to personify the Earth in the form of a superhero. The play on “superpowers” in this challenge is an homage to our tenth annual event and to our 2021 theme: “The Power of Ten.” To find other youth-friendly challenges, visit our challenge page and select the ‘Youth-Friendly’ filter.

All of this year’s challenges showcase NASA’s wide-ranging initiatives both on Earth and in space. Once you’ve discovered a challenge that sparks your interest, start a team or request to join an existing team. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also choose to “Invent Your Own Challenge.” However, please note that this challenge is not eligible for Global Awards.

And that’s a wrap! Register now, and choose your challenge. If you’re dying to know more about some of the NASA experts behind the challenges, stay tuned for our blog post later this week!

Happy Hacking!

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