Nothing has stopped NASA from getting help from public once in a while and here they are with a grand, grand award of $100,000 to anyone who develops a low-cost and lightweight aerosol sensor which can monitor the quality of air on Earth and beyond. Sounds easy?

NASA is perhaps the most technologically advanced organisation, yet it never shies away when they need that extra brainpower, so they rely on the most efficiently enthusiastic source – common public. This time their requirement is as basic and as crucial as – air. Well, not air but something to check how good the air is – on earth and more importantly, in space. Because breathable air is necessary to sustain humans both on Earth as well as in space. To ensure the health of humans traveling in spacecraft to explore the solar system, aerosol sensors are needed to monitor air quality and alert engineers when action is necessary.

The research team of NASA is working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to sponsor the Earth and Space Air Prize competition for a solution that could improve air quality and health in space and on Earth. So the challenge is to develop a robust, durable, inexpensive, efficient, lightweight and easy-to-use aerosol sensor for space. Phew, adjectives! So if you successfully develop a sensor which fulfils all those adjectives then all $100,000 are yours to take. The competition asks teams or individuals to design and develop specialised sensor technology that has the potential to be useful in spaceflight as well as on Earth anywhere outdoors in a community where people may be exposed to airborne particles.

The whole challenge is divided in two-phases: Phase 1 for registration which will be open till December 13, 2017 and requires submission of a sensor design by January 31, 2018. The competition will name three finalists by the end of March 2018, and each will be awarded $ 50,000 to build a prototype. Finalists will have to deliver prototypes to the Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland, Ohio, by September 30, 2018 for testing and final evaluation. And the final grand prize of $100,000 winner will be announced in mid-October of 2018, you could be a millionaire by next year this time!

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