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Welcome to the NASA Grand Challenge, where everyone from government agencies to citizen scientists will compete to figure out the best way to detect and study earth-threatening asteroids. This is a real thing that is happening, and it's all complimentary to the agency's initiative to lasso an asteroid for further study

NASA loves studying asteroids for two big reasons: first, one that's large enough could destroy all life on earth upon impact. and second, we might be able to use them as rest stops to Mars. And while we're currently fresh out of space-going manned vehicles, NASA has grand plans to snag an asteroid by 2019, with a mission to Mars some time after 2020 (they've even picked some potential astronauts for those missions). A grand plan needs a Grand Challenge (which is actually a term from the Obama administration) to get things going, so here's how you could help NASA out

"NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth's orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth," said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. "This Grand Challenge is focused on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats. We will also harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science to help solve this global problem." 

Along with backyard astronomers, NASA will invite "government agencies, international partners, industry, and  academia" to take part in the challenge. 

No, it's not very specific. But NASA has promised to reveal more in the coming months, including on financial initiatives to get things going. But the basics are already clear: find killer asteroids, and tell NASA. So  put on your thinking caps. Your planet needs you. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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