A robotic spacecraft called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, is currently orbiting the moon. The LRO is sending back so much data, however, that NASA is asking for help in analyzing it. Oxford astrophysicist Chris Lintott created the website MoonZoo.org (part of the Zooniverse Project), where anyone can log on, watch a training video and begin identifying objects on the lunar surface.
Today I created an account on MoonZoo and very quickly I was identifying craters, boulders, mounds, linear features and other objects. There’s even a tiny chance that the picture you’re shown will include man-made objects: a non-functioning lander from the 1960s, for example. It’s very absorbing—I spent about 30 minutes marking craters when I really should have been working on something else.
This enabling of easy public participation in the advancement of science is one of the things I love best about the Internet.