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NASA Crowd Sources its Future

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 27, 2013
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Crowd sourcing.

It has become ubiquitous in today’s wired world.

Kickstarter campaigns are run for everything from funding trips to building asteroid hunting telescopes. Need a design for something? Describe your project, have designers put forth their best efforts, and purchase the one you like the best.

Now crowd sourcing has come to NASA. And the space agency is doing it for the boldest human spaceflight initiative since Apollo program sent men to the moon more than 40 years ago.

NASA has received more than 400 proposals related to request for information (RFI) for ideas on how to bring an asteroid back to cis-lunar space for astronauts to explore and its Grand Challenge to protect Earth from dangerous asteroids.

These proposals have come from private citizens, companies, non-profit organizations, government agencies and potential foreign partners, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said during an appearance at the NewSpace 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif. on Friday.

The space agency is reviewing the submissions and plans to have a workshop in September to discuss the most innovative and promising ideas.

RFIs are not new; NASA has used them in the past. But, the space agency is making increased use of them to tap into the expertise, imagination and capabilities of a broader world beyond the confines of its headquarters in Washington and the field it has scattered around the country.

This is a significant change in the way NASA usually does business, particularly on big projects. The space agency usually determines what it wanted to do in-house, often with an eye on how to best use its own resources, keep its people employed, and how to keep key constituencies that support the space agency happy.

Instead, NASA asked the crowd to come up its best ideas and how it could best use its resources and capabilities to undertake these tasks. And the flood of ideas and proposals that has come in has given the agency access to approaches, news ways of thinking and capabilities it might never have thought of or known about on its own within the traditional constraints of doing business.

And it represents a potentially revolutionary way for NASA to change the way it explores the Solar System. This approach embodies a focus on innovation and capabilities and tapping into the imaginations of anyone with a potentially gaming changing idea.

It will be very exciting to see what ideas emerge from this effort.

3 responses to “NASA Crowd Sources its Future”

  1. Hug Doug ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

    i would assume the proposals are already publicly available somewhere on NASA’s website. NASA’s selection processes are usually not public, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t transparent. transparency doesn’t mean you get to see every little detail, that meetings are broadcast online somewhere. very few people would be interested in seeing these meetings. perhaps you would be, but that doesn’t mean many others would be. it’s only an illusion if you think it is.

  2. Hug Doug ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

    you work for NASA?

  3. Hug Doug ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

    that’s pretty cool 🙂

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