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planetaryresourcesThanks to a Seattle-area company, programmers are soon going to have a shot at using NASA data to find asteroids.

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources announced today that it has signed an agreement with NASA to sponsor challenges to use algorithms to better detect asteroids and other objects that have orbits that pass close to Earth, otherwise known as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).

Planetary Resources, which is backed by a number of tech luminaries, including Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, will be working with NASA to provide sky survey data sets to people who are interested in trying to build better ways to find asteroids and other objects in space. They will also run competitions to find the best ways of detecting NEOs. The company will be responsible for developing the challenges, while NASA will be charged with actually running the contests, and figuring out if any of the resulting algorithms can be used to enhance the agency’s detection program.

Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources.
Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources.

While the work would be useful for Planetary Resources’ mission of finding and mining asteroids, it also will be beneficial for people who want to make sure that all of those asteroid-based disaster movies don’t come to pass.

“Our mission is to mine asteroids for precious resources, but we uniquely understand the crowd’s interest to be actively involved in space exploration. And, we are always seeking new and innovative ways to increase our knowledge of NEOs, especially those that may be potentially hazardous,” Planetary Resources’s President and Chief Engineer Chris Lewicki said in a press release.

The wisdom of crowds is nothing new to Planetary Resources, which we recently named one of Seattle’s 10 most innovative startups. Earlier this year, the company wrapped up a Kickstarter campaign for ARKYD, a crowdfunded space telescope that is supposed to launch in 2015.

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