NASA has posted three challenges on labour marketplace Freelancer, with one calling on an unusual ancient skill.
The space agency is requesting crowdsourced solutions for packing and deploying radiation shielding gear for a Mars transfer vehicle, asking Freelancers to use techniques from origami — the Japanese art of paper folding.
“We’re calling upon our 24 million users to imagine how robots can automatically prepare the space environment for human arrival, making life easier and more secure for the incoming astronauts,” said Freelancer chief executive Matt Barrie.
“NASA represents some of the very best ideas that our planet has to offer and I’m sure our community will once again show the power of human ingenuity.”
The agency explains that radiation shielding is vital for the health of crew that may be sent on missions to Mars.
“Health risks from space radiation may include an increased incidence of cancer; acute radiation sickness; degenerative tissue damage; diseases such as heart disease and cataracts; and early and late central nervous system damage,” NASA states.
Another challenge for Freelancer members is to storyboard a short video to educate the public on how NASA keeps track of objects taken on space missions, while the third task is to design a “patch” graphic for the agency’s “refabricator” project, which will see plastic material in space recycled as 3D-printed parts.
NASA has used Freelancer before to ask for crowdsourced solutions, having finished 29 such contests that attracted 6,800 entries from 123 countries. Past solutions have included programming the smartwatch interface for use by astronauts and designing a flying robot arm for use on the International Space Station.