During a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, General John Raymond, the chief of U.S. space operations, stated: “Space is a data domain.” And to help the Space Force continue to explore this domain, the organization plans to hire numerous data scientists this summer. 

According to Raymond, the Space Force has seen a significant uptick in interest from the private sector. Four hundred applicants applied from various industries, and after vetting by Space Force officials, the applicant pool was reduced to 45 candidates. Ultimately, the plan is to bring six new hires on board. 

As an independent branch of the U.S. military, Space Force personnel must pass certain physical assessment tests. However, officials plan to replace the annual physical fitness test with a more holistic physical and mental wellness program that emphasizes the benefits of both physical activity and mental health throughout the year. FCW has more on this and other ways the Space Force is evolving to accommodate more employees with private sector backgrounds. 

A recent piece in Space.com offers a fascinating look at how data science is employed to further our understanding of space. After combing through old data from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have identified nearly 1,500 new asteroids. 

The team used observations captured by Hubble’s cameras during the period between April 30, 2002 and March 14, 2021. The typical observation time for these devices is 30 minutes, and the team knew that moving asteroids would look like streaks in the images. Because these streaks are often curved, it’s difficult to train computer systems to detect them automatically, so a team of citizen data scientists is needed. 

Over 11,400 volunteers analyzed over 37,000 images to identify those with streaks. Armed with these classifications, the astronomers trained an automated machine learning algorithm to look for additional asteroid images and ultimately made the identification of almost 1,500 new asteroids.

According to the lead researchers, the combination of both human and artificial intelligence to pour over the vast amount of Hubble data is “a game-changer.” In the future, the team plans to study the shape of the asteroid trails to determine how far they are from Earth and also better understand their orbits.

For more on how data and analytics are shaping the future of space, check out this previous APEX of Innovation post.