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Thousands Get Set to Log Into Global Space Apps Challenge

The power of the people is being applied to space science this weekend: The fourth annual International Space Apps Challenge will let citizen scientists all over the world come up with new and creative ways to use data from space.

Information collected by space probes and other space-agency instruments can be used to help expand humanity's knowledge of the cosmos, or to make life a little better here on Earth. Doing so requires not only collecting the data, but also knowing what to do with it. The 2015 International Space Apps Challenge engages non-scientists in this pursuit.

During a global code-a-thon taking place from April 10 to 12, participants will develop mobile applications, software, hardware, data visualization tools and platforms that solve real-world problems for both scientists and the public. Astronaut Cady Coleman and NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan will be on hand at the New York City event. [NASA's 2015 Goals for Space Tech, Science & Exploration]

IBM is supporting the program by opening free access to its Bluemix cloud development platform. Bluemix will give participants the ability to draw on more than 100 cloud-based development tools, including IBM's Watson Analytics.

Participants can work in teams or alone, and are tasked with creating a product by the end of the challenge. The products can be totally original ideas, or they can be in response to one of NASA's 35 suggested challenges. These challenges fall into four categories: Earth studies, space exploration, human health research, and robotics.

Examples of suggested challenges in the space exploration category include "3-2-1 Liftoff: Launch That Rocket!" in which designers are asked to "develop an experience that captures all the variables involved with making the launch decision."

Past entries have tackled a wide range of topics, from climate change to the International Space Station. To complete the challenge, participants will have access to more than 200 data sources, according to NASA. Apps Challenge entrants can participate remotely or attend one of the live events taking place in more than 100 cities worldwide, covering every continent except Antarctica.

This is a condensed and updated version of a report from Space.com. Read the full report. Follow Calla Cofield on Twitter. Follow Space.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.