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Teen Finalists in NASA Competition Targeted by Hackers Based on Race

Teenagers in NASA challenge targeted by hackers for their race

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NASA's InSight spacecraft touches down on Mars. Pixabay
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NASA has confirmed that hackers tried to sway results of a challenge for teenagers that involved public voting via social media by targeting some participants on the basis of their race.

The challenge from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center encourages students to find “spinoff” technology in their everyday world, the USA Today reported on Thursday.

However, after learning hackers attempted to alter the final vote totals, NASA said on April 29 it had to shut down the voting portion of the “OPSPARC Challenge”, which hopes to ignite creative thinking in children.

“Unfortunately, it was brought to NASA’s attention … that some members of the public used social media, not to encourage students and support STEM, but to attack a particular student team based on their race and encouraged others to disrupt the contest and manipulate the vote, and the attempt to manipulate the vote occurred shortly after those posts,” NASA said in a statement.

Representational image for Hacking.
Representational image. Pixabay

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the hackers targeted a team of students from Washington, DC’s Banneker High School who created a product that could purify school systems’ water by checking for chemicals such as chlorine.

The Banneker team was among eight finalists to win the challenge.

Before the voting ended, members of the public were using social media to generate support for particular teams in the public voting.

Also Read: NASA Tests Mini-Nuclear Reactors for Moon and Mars

NASA supports this kind of community-based effort to encourage students to engage with science, technology, engineering and math and recognises social media as an important tool for that support.

The challenge team has an accurate record of the voting results prior to the attempted disruption, NASA said.

“In accordance with the judging criteria and voting procedures stated on the OPSPARC website, a panel of NASA Goddard judges will make a final determination of the winners using the published rubrics,” it added.

The results are slated to be announced this month.  (IANS)

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NASA’s Probe Discovers Signs Of Water on Asteroid Bennu

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid's gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain.

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This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has discovered ingredients for water on a relatively nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid, a rocky acorn-shaped object that may hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists said on Monday.

OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 12 miles (19 km) of the asteroid Bennu some 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) from Earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules — part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life — embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.

The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth. There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.

 

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx. Flickr

 

“We have found the water-rich minerals from the early solar system, which is exactly the kind of sample we were going out there to find and ultimately bring back to Earth,” University of Arizona planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

“When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system,” Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.

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This illustration provided by NASA depicts the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at the asteroid Bennu. The rocky remnant from the dawn of the solar system may hold clues to the origins of life. VOA

“We’re really trying to understand the role that these carbon-rich asteroids played in delivering water to the early Earth and making it habitable,” Lauretta added.

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain. From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet (2 meters) of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.

Also Read: Wintertime Ice Growth in Arctic Sea Slows Long-Term Decline: NASA

The spacecraft will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023. (VOA)