From NASA’s plans for a manned mission to Mars to the meteor crash at central Russia in 2013, the necessity to support space research is a topic that comes up quite often, with government funding being the focus of debate.
Down to Earth examines the possible ways citizens can be familiarised with space research. We created an educational tool that suggests a possible way to perceive asteroids. However, this project also intends to question the means employed for this purpose, especially when the discussion comes to potential disasters, like in the case of asteroids. We stress the difficulty to make people (aka the taxpayers) empathise, avoiding the talk about invisible threats and using methods that intend to terrify them.
The project started with the goal to deal practically with the aforementioned issues and then ask questions about the social implications involved.
Although there are open and publicly available data about asteroids, terminology, scale and effects are incomprehensible to the public at large. Down to Earth takes asteroid data and produces familiar analogies that make the scales and magnitudes easier to comprehend; using locations and the open collaborative human knowledge database freebase.com, the platform finds iconic buildings nearby and compares them with asteroid’s attributes like size, or distance form Earth to deliver meaningful visual data. It also provides a platform to create fictional scenarios of catastrophe on demand, according to which, the asteroid hits the selected place, in order to further examine the impact of an unfortunate incidence; using the same knowledge database, we retrieve real data about the population density of an area and we measure the disaster (deaths) caused by this fictional event.
Appearances: 66th International Astronautical Congress, Conference proceedings,
Top 20 projects at NASA Global Award in Space Apps Challenge