Thursday, April 1, 2010

Space: Give the People What They Want

CNET has published a set of images that have been taken by NASA’s HiRise camera, a device created to capture high quality pictures of the Martian surface. These images are not the most awe-inspiring NASA has produced, such as the Hubble images the likes of which we have become accustomed to. However, these images are still something special: the targets were chosen by the general public!

The suggestions were made through a program called HiWish, which was specifically created to take input from non-experts about where the HiRise camera should be pointed. The CNET story states that as a result of this project, the camera has even been nicknamed ‘the people’s camera.’ Hopefully, with the release of these images, people will get at least a bit more excited about space exploration, even if it is just our next-door neighbor.

However, it’s not all smiles and happiness at this point from this author’s perspective. According to the CNET article, there have been about 1,000 suggestions made. That’s all since late January of this year when HiWish was initially launched. Of those, most came early on in the project, and now there are only a few suggestions per day, and the majority of those come from a small number of people.

While the project is open to the public, it seems not much of the public is aware of its existence. Worse yet, they just may not interested. A little publicity will hopefully go a long way to improve this case and encourage and excite people to join in. Many scientific discoveries have been made by non-experts, so it can’t hurt to have a few extra people looking into this, regardless of their individual technical knowledge.

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