Hey Reddit!

Last time we spoke I asked you what NASA should do next - we had a great conversation and now I want to tell you about an opportunity to take part in that future. I'm working with a team at NASA to throw the International Space Apps Challenge - a global space hackathon happening in 75 cities around the world on April 20 - 21, 2013. Our goal is to improve both life on earth and life in space and we've partnered with over 100 organizations around the world to help provide the opportunity of citizens around the world to contribute.

I'm incredibly excited about the potential of the Space Apps Challenge to kickstart many of the ideas you had in to a reality. We've crafted over 50 challenges to serve as inspiration for projects, and my hope today is that we can have a great discussion about Space Apps, how you can get involved, and how mass collaborations like this can propel us to a new age of space exploration.


Comments: 145 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

spacekate15 karma

I'll be going to the London event and I've an idea for an app to be used in space to help out the astronauts. I want to know what little things were frustrating for you in space - so I can see if I can think about more little things to help make it better for the astronauts. Thoughts?

RonGaran12 karma

Anything we can use to keep track of things (both physically and virtually) We could use better ways to secure things (stuff floats all over the place) and better ways to keep track of activities, procedures and timelines. Thanks for helping!

spacekate7 karma

Excellent - my idea might be one of those things that could help. I assume it is okay to come with an idea of our own that we want to create - or should we just stick to the challenges that are suggested?

Also - if we do make something cool/useful, might it actually get used in space?

RonGaran5 karma

We are open to all cool new ideas. Make something great and we'll do our best to get it to space!

caleystaxi1 karma

There was a Create Your Own Challenge for 2013 before today's update; may be adllewellyn can mention whether that's still the case? I know that it's a gradual roll-out, so may be it will get added back in over the next couple weeks.

RonGaran3 karma

Yes, people can still create their own challenge. That capability will be added but even if you create your own challenge we still want you to collaborate with other teams/locations. Invite others to get involved with your challenge.

jonmonTO2 karma

Hey Ron -- Jonathan here from Space Apps Toronto. I'm surprised to hear that securing everything is still a problem that needs to be solved! Can you give us an example of a particular gap in design?

RonGaran3 karma

Well, we mostly use velcro and bungees those work fine if you're stationary but better ways to secure objects to crew members both for transporting objects and allowing for hands-free work would be helpful

Fixhotep14 karma

WOOHOOO thanks for the AMA!

As someone who has an interesting history as a pilot, aquanaut and astronaut... is there something on your "bucket list" that you haven't had the chance of doing because you're just too damn busy being awesome in space?

RonGaran16 karma

The big thing on my bucket list is to help anyway I can to alleviate poverty. I believe that by working together we can actually raise the entire population of our planet out of poverty

Fixhotep5 karma

I suppose i ought to follow up on this.

While poverty does not have one definitive fix-all answer, some would say that women's rights/education is absolutely key if we want to take a serious step at this.

With that said, what role do you think you, or perhaps NASA, can personally play in this?

RonGaran6 karma

I agree 100% that improving global women's rights/education is one of the most critical factors in poverty alleviation. There are many Space Apps Challenges dealing with education and there's one that I can think of in particular (called My Virtual Mentor) that deals with getting girls involved with STEM education and keeping them involved with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But another big aspect of what NASA does is demonstrates the value of international collaboration to tackle enourmous challenges like building a huge orbiting research facility

corygagliardi9 karma

When you are living in the ISS, are your dreams in weightlessness as well? Do you continue to have weightless dreams back on earth?

RonGaran11 karma

My dreams while in space were both weightless and with Earth gravity. Occasionally, I dream that I'm back in space and floating around the ISS

Luthwyhn8 karma

This is less a question for you, Ron, and more just about the Challenge itself: Are we allowed to start on things now if we've got ideas, or is it required that all the word be done within the two day window?

EDIT: Oh, and the other half of the question, I suppose, would be - does it have to be 100% complete by the end of the 21st, or can you be judged from a functioning prototype or the likes?

...and while I'm here, would you rather the Earth be invaded by 1,000,000 horse-sized Duckborgs, or 100,000,000 duck-sized Horsenoids?

RonGaran8 karma

  • You can start now and continue to work on it beyond the 2-day window.
  • 100,000,000 duck-sized Horsenoids of course - duh!

caleystaxi8 karma

What challenges for the 2013 International Space Apps Challenge are you excited about? http://spaceappschallenge.org/challenges/

adllewellyn3 karma

I'll chime in as the project manager for Space Apps... I'm really excited about open ROV (http://spaceappschallenge.org/challenge/open-rov/) - this is a project we helped with last year as well, and tested at NEEMO last spring. I love it because it's a great example of the power of real collaboration all over the world to use technology in powerful ways... often to go where humans can't. (See this post and the awesome video: http://open.nasa.gov/blog/2012/06/14/open-hardware-exploration-at-neemo16/)

What one are you excited about?

RonGaran3 karma

I'm excited about those projects that incorporate open hardware, software and data. The more open the platforms are, the more we can bring people along on space mission not just as spectators but as fellow crew-mates

RonGaran8 karma

As proof I posted about the ama on G+ https://plus.google.com/116214152295449083654/posts/Xhpva3hNLeM FB: https://www.facebook.com/RonGaran and @Astro_ron on Twitter

PlanetaryDuality5 karma

Hey Ron, when you get home from the station, do you find yourself wanting to or absent mindedly trying to float around your house?

RonGaran3 karma

That never happened to me but I've heard others talk about that experience.

RschDev5 karma

Colonel - I noticed that in addition to the 74 sites on the planet Earth, the ISS is listed as a site. Is this just a marketing ploy or do you expect that the crew will actually participate? Thanks for doing the AMA. Here in Tallahassee, we're really excited to be a site for the Challenge.

RonGaran3 karma

The crew onboard the ISS is very aware that the International Space Apps Challenge is happening and will be sending down a message for all the participants. This time they will not be tackling a challenge themselves but we hope to incorporate the crew more directly into the activities in the future.

CrypticConundrum4 karma

As a young person interested in space, what do you need to accomplish prior to becoming an astronaut? Also, since I know height is a factor, how strict is NASA with the height of an astronaut? I would like to know because I want to be an astronaut, but I am currently two inches from being the max height. That wouldn't be such a problem, except i'm 13.

Thanks for doing the AMA!

RonGaran3 karma

We have astronauts from many different professions. I think the best advice I can give is to find something that you truly love to do and be the very best you can be at it. Also it is very important to learn as much as you can in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. As far as your height goes, don't let anything stop you even if you exceed the max height limit who's to say what the limit will be in the future. If worse came to worse, you could design your own spacecraft. Anything is possible!

CrypticConundrum3 karma

Thank you! It may sound a bit bizarre, but my dream is to be the first man on Mars. And with NASA estimating 2033 as the year for a man on Mars, I might just have a chance.

RonGaran3 karma

That was my dream too but I immediately dismissed that as a crazy dream since I thought (back in the early 70's) that we would have humans on Mars way before I grew up. You can do it!

jonmonTO3 karma

What quality of internet connection / bandwidth do you have up there?

RonGaran3 karma

The internet is very slow (like a bad dial up) but it is still wonderful to have the capability to have 2-way interactions with folks on Planet Earth.

concernedworld3 karma

This is fantastic Ron. Thank you for continuing your pursuit in bridging the gap between everyday life, space exploration, and the developing world. I am going to try to get some fellow co.spacers to do this with me!

RonGaran4 karma

Awesome Thanks!

gururyan3 karma


RonGaran3 karma

Wasn't aware there was a geocache on ISS - cool!

LoudpackJack3 karma

Let me go up in space with you and eat some magic mushrooms

RonGaran3 karma

We don't have any magic mushrooms in space - we do have some zucchini though https://twitter.com/Astro_Zuc

BennyJames2 karma

What's it like in space?

RonGaran3 karma

This is the first blog post I wrote from space: http://bit.ly/11b3ClH Hopefully it answers that a little. I actually wrote it during the 2 1/2 days I spent in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft enroute to the International Space Station.

Romanas2 karma

Do you get lost in dreams, and when you wake you dont know where you are in space or in your bed?

RonGaran7 karma

Once while in space I dreamt I was falling - when I woke up I realized I was falling!

ReadMyPosts2 karma

UFO's, have you seen any?

RonGaran7 karma

Not yet

s515_152 karma

Missed the last AMA, so this isn't about the app challenge, but what do you think about a lottery system built around the space program? Half the money could be used as a payout but the other half NASA could use to fund space projects. Hell if it was transnational like powerball or mega millions you could get some huge payouts and thus a large source of funding for space missions

RonGaran3 karma

Interesting idea but I would prefer that people realize that the space program is a critical investment in the future of humanity and our planet (both in the short tem and long term). Exploration and scientific discoveries made on the ISS are making life better on planet Earth. I beleive history will show the direct connection between our investment in our space program and unprecedented improvements in quality of life, the environment, and could one day be the critical factor in our very survival (how's that for a lottery - one day a planet destroying asteroid will have our name on it and I hope we're ready)

RschDev1 karma

Another question - We have some high school students interested in participating. Is there an age limit?

RonGaran2 karma

No age limit - last time some of the best solutions were submitted by students.

PoliteDebater1 karma

I just wanted to say, first and foremost that I want to thank you for being apart of something as wonderful as space. I really hope one day to work on the ISS or perhaps beyond.

Just a few questions:

  1. What do you think of the current state of space exploration? What would you change?

  2. What are some big hurdles/problems that are currently prevalent of the ISS in terms or software/hardware?

  3. What do you think of companies like Mars One and Mars Drive?

Thank you again for doing this AMA!

RonGaran3 karma

  1. I think that space exploration is in a state of transition. We are transitioning to new technologies that will enable us to extend human exploration beyond low Earth orbit and we are transitioning transportation to and from low Earth orbit to commercial entities.
  2. The ISS is an incredible accomplishment of humanity on many fronts but the design is limited to only what it was intended for: low Earth orbit. The design of the ISS assumes a constant resupply from Earth. When we push off from low Earth orbit and restart human exploration of the solar system, we will need spacecraft that are autonomous, don't require resupply from Earth or a great deal of maintenance.
  3. I believe a successful Mars mission will require a substantial collaborative effort between governments, commercial entities and citizen efforts.

andrewnakas1 karma

Wow the apps challenge looks cool. What do you think about an open ended sandbox mars curiosity exploration game where you can drive around shoot lasers and drill holes?

RonGaran1 karma

I'd play it!

chelseaorcutt1 karma

What advice can you offer students (especially computer science and engineering majors) about contributing to Space Apps in a meaningful way?

RonGaran2 karma

Step 1: Find a location near you (or participate on-line) Step 2: Find a team tackling a challenge that excites your creativity Step 3: Build something awesome Step 4: Share it with the world through the International Space Apps Challenge

SupriseRape1 karma

Was this your dream as a child?

RonGaran2 karma

Yes since the age of 7

thereisnosuchthing1 karma

What do you feel about the astronauts who have talked about seeing UFOs or [what they deemed to be] intelligently controlled craft in space that didn't belong to them?

For example, Dr. Edgar Mitchell(moon-walker / Apollo 14), Maj. Gordon Cooper(Mercury), Donald Slayton(also Mercury), Ed White(first American to walk in space), also James McDivitt from the same mission, then there was James Lovell(Gemini); then there was that guy.. Maurice Chatelain, who worked on NASA Communications Systems, who had some interesting things to say about it as well. What do you feel about this and why do you think reports from such distinguished individuals wouldn't have created a more widespread investigation into this topic? Or has there been one and there's no need to officially inform a public that might be better off without worries about 'aliens from outer space'.

Do they have a lot of crazy conspiracy theorists in the NASA astronaut corps? Lot of nutjobs whose opinions/first-hand accounts aren't worth anything having hallucinations out in space or being sent to the moon, or what? Are the men who are sent into space typically mentally unsound or so untrained that they would mistake simple natural phenomenon for ..well, this kind of thing? Do you train with a lot of people who should be taking more medicine and is your outfit typically not credible?

I mean, seriously, are these astronauts crazy? Some of them have some pretty 'crazy' sounding stories to tell. How do you feel about this and why are these men not more widely known to have said things like this? Does it embarrass you to be involved in the company of crazy people like those working for NASA?(Just kidding, but seriously). What do we think about this up there? What is the general consensus about this, if there is one at all? I'm only asking for personal opinion or an offhand remark, not a professional or official statement.

Who would "alien life forms" with the ability to travel through interstellar space deem to be the most advanced life-forms on any given planet? Probably the ones who can make it out into space themselves. So, they would also be deemed the most credible witnesses(by any sane culture, which we are not, which Earth lacks in general), and as such - "show themselves" to people like the men who have walked on the moon.

..but the people who AREN'T farmers in the middle of nowhere or rednecks with no education are smart enough to know that if they try to talk about "seeing UFOs" they'll be laughed at by people who intellectually just aren't putting in the effort(like the majority of people on reddit) and ruin their own careers ..so they have to wait until they're old and gray to tell you. [posted originally on the 'astronaut aboard the ISS' AMA, no response]

RonGaran1 karma

I saw a UFO almost everyday while I was living on the ISS. A UFO is an Unidentified Flying Object. So when I'm looking out the window and see something fly by it's unidentified to me. There are 1000's of objects in orbit around our planet, communications satellites, space junk, pieces of foam and insulation that broke free from the ISS etc. In space it's almost impossible to know how far away from you the object is unless you know it's size. So it's difficult to tell the difference between a piece of foam 10' away from a large satellite 10km away. I have never seen anything during my time in space that led me to believe we are being visited by aliens from another planet. I have no idea why some people claim to have first hand knowledge of alien encounters. The explanation could be everything from the stories are true to people have experienced hallucinations. My honest answer to, "Are we alone in the Universe?" is I don't know but I doubt it - the Universe is a pretty big place. My honest answer to, "Are we being visited by aliens in stealthy spacecraft?" is I seriously doubt it.

VividLotus1 karma

First of all, I wanted to thank you so much for doing this AMA and posting about this challenge!

I noticed that many of the challenges don't specify a platform for the deliverable. Is there a general preference one way or another when it comes to whether an app is web-based, iOS, Android, a Windows desktop application, etc.?

RonGaran2 karma

There is no preference - we don't want to stifle creativity

SalvadorSnipez1 karma

Not about the space apps challenge, but What was it like Coming back to earth in the Soyuz Capsule? How did you find your start in the 40th FTS?

RonGaran2 karma

Coming back to Earth in the Soyuz capsule was incredible. I wrote all about here: http://bit.ly/ZVtP2S The 40FTS was a great place to learn how to test aircraft and all the people i worked with were awesome.

garthim91 karma

Are there any limitations or restrictions for the participants or entries to the NSAC?

RonGaran3 karma

There are no limitations to participating virtually on-line or in person at any one of the 75 global locations. All are welcome - we need all the help we can get - space is really big...

garthim91 karma

The Space Apps Challenge is fantastic!! How can I be most effective in finding solutions to these issues?

RonGaran2 karma

Bring your unique skill and find a team that needs that skill. Don't be afraid to try something new, try new approaches and do something completely outside your skill set too

RschDev1 karma

We have several artists considering participation in the Challenge at our site. Do art oriented projects have much of a chance of winning?

RonGaran2 karma

Art is an important aspect of the challenges. There were some awesome art submissions last year. Here's one: http://open.nasa.gov/blog/2012/05/25/who-is-jon-spooner/

Lucaan1 karma

If an animal-esque quadruped alien species was discovered, and you had the chance to name them, what would you name them.

RonGaran2 karma


Extre1 karma

I'm just here to say, THIS is the right way, you should use the public which dream about space to "help" NASA.

I mean, if the budget was decided by the public, I don't think NASA would have to worry.

Good luck !

RonGaran3 karma

Thanks come join us!

Fwyatt2501 karma

What's it like to be in space?

RonGaran1 karma

This is the first blog post I wrote from space: http://bit.ly/11b3ClH Hopefully it answers that a little. I actually wrote it during the 2 1/2 days I spent in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft enroute to the International Space Station.

MyDadsNotATrain1 karma

I'm from Australia and was at work when this IAMA happened so I don't know if you're still about, but here goes.

I recently heard about the Space Apps Challenge and signed up right away. My problem is that my knowledge of space/physics is embarrassingly inadequate (from a technical standpoint anyway). In the context of these projects, what should I cram before the event that would allow me to understand the important bits and be productive? My area of expertise is software, btw!

RonGaran2 karma

The International Space Apps Challenge is designed to bring together a broad range of different skills and backgrounds and enable collaboration. Different people bring different pieces of the puzzle. There's no need to cram for any subject just bring what you have, find a challenge that interests you and join a team where you can contribute most. With a background in software you should be able to make a big positive impact on any team. Thanks!

JTxOLD1 karma

Have you been to space? If so, does your body feel different?

RonGaran2 karma

Yes I was in space for 2 weeks in 2008 after launching to the International Space Station on Space Shuttle Discovery and I spent 1/2 of 2011 living and working onboard the ISS after launching from Kazakhstan on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In space since you are in a micro-g environment, you don't have gravity pulling all the fluid in your body toward your feet. The result is you feel like your head is stuffed up and your face tends to be puffy. You do get used to it quickly though.

thirdrail691 karma

I never get my questions answered by anyone of importance in AMAs, besides one to Eric Lander. If an astronaut answered my question I'd be pretty damn pleased.

Would you rather fight 100 horse sized ducks or 1 duck sized horse in microgravity armed only with a can of silly string?

RonGaran1 karma

That's a ridiculous question - everyone knows it's better to fight 1 duck sized horse in microgravity armed only with a can of silly string. Although a duck's beak is flat and it's bite is spread out over the whole surface making it relatively harmless, 100 horse sized ducks would overwhelm the life support systems of the ISS and would lead to death for everyone on board. Give me one duck sized horse any day.

3rdgreatcheesewheel1 karma

I think you mixed up the sizes of the horse and ducks.

RonGaran1 karma

Just answering the question as asked. Since I assume it's only a hypothetical question, thirdrail69 is free to ask it any way he/she wants.

3rdgreatcheesewheel1 karma

Oh no, I'm not criticizing anyone here. I was under the impression that thirdrail69 was trying to ask the customary '100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck' question that is usually asked during iAmAs, and mistakenly typed the reverse sequence. I'm sure you were asked the same question at some other point. If he/she wasn't in fact trying to do so, I apologize for the confusion. Thanks for replying! I assumed you'd be gone forever into the aether after your initial round of questioning.

RonGaran2 karma

No I'm sticking around for as long as I can. I chose to answer the question as written because it's allot easier than having to choose between 1 horse size duck and 100 duck sized horses - both would wreak havoc on the ISS life support systems

Stue31121 karma

Do you think we would already be on Mars if the cold war hadn't ended? political stances etc. aside.

RonGaran4 karma

Cold War or not, we will never get to Mars until we decide to make a real commitment to go there.

idgman941 karma

With the privatization of the space program, do you think we have the potential to put a man on mars in our lifetime?

RonGaran1 karma

Privatization or not, we will not make it to Mars (or anywhere else) unless there is a real commitment to do so. There are many factors that go into what it will take to have a real commitment; but once we have that I think private companies will play a big role (as they always have).

[deleted]0 karma


RonGaran2 karma

I believe this is appropriate for an AMA because we want to use space (technology and perspective) to improve every aspect of life on Earth. What we want to do with the International Space Apps Challenge not only bridges across borders but disciplines, industries, cultures, etc etc etc. I think that's a very worthy topic of discussion.

caleystaxi0 karma

Are you planning on participating in the 2013 Space Apps event April 20-21? If so, are you going to be at a particular location or will you be participating virtually?

RonGaran1 karma

I am participating. Last time I was in San Francisco. This year I'm thinking of possibly going back to my roots in the Big Apple. Where do you think I should go?

TexasTango0 karma

Found any chicks with 3 boobs yet ?

RonGaran8 karma

not as far as you know

StarPat0 karma

We're really looking forward to the Space Apps Challenge here in Florida. Thanks to the Space Apps Challenge Team for making this possible. Will you be at any of the locations?

RonGaran1 karma

I am participating. Last time I was in San Francisco. This year I'm thinking of possibly going back to my roots in the Big Apple. Where do you think I should go?

StarPat1 karma

I think you should enjoy some warm weather and join us at KSC.

RonGaran1 karma

Would love to but I'm starting to get into a New York State of Mind

iamtylerdurdenman0 karma

What degree do you have?

RonGaran1 karma

I have a BS in Business Economics, a MAS in Aeronautical Science, and a MS in Aerospace Engineering

aero19920 karma


RonGaran1 karma

I wanted to be an astronaut since July 20th 1969 that was well before the F-16 was invented. The F-16 was my "office" for 15 years it is an absolutely incredible machine.