DARPA's Amateur Astronomers
The U.S. military's research wing, DARPA, is the latest agency to jump on the public-crowdsourcing bandwagon with the launch of SpaceView this week. This space-observation project enables astronomy enthusiasts to gather data for the U.S. Air Force's Space Surveillance Network. With the network's current professionals at capacity tracking just six percent of potentially destructive space debris, these amateurs can potentially make a big difference in helping protect American satellites that provide cable and the internet.
The project certainly appears to be a creative leap of faith. How successful SpaceView will be in safeguarding orbital assets remains another question, as it seems to differ significantly from most established crowdsourcing efforts that offer prizes or rewards in order to solve a problem. One hopes that trained astronomers aren't being asked to spend too much time recruiting amateurs instead of monitoring the small slice of the sky we do have under control.
You can watch DARPA’s promo video for SpaceView here: