Here’s how it works - volunteers are given a small photo of the surface of the planet Mars, and asked to click the perimeter of visible craters. The user then submits the information - translated by the system into latitude, longitude, and diameter numbers - to the NASA database. A training example with 7 known craters gives accuracy feedback as each crater is marked. Upon request, it can give hints, or even demonstrate where to click on the next crater. A second task, estimating the age of the crater, is a bit more complicated, though the user is given examples and detailed instructions about how this is done. With several clickworkers marking the same craters, NASA is able to gain a consensus comparable to what might be found by a single expert in the field.
The project is the second phase of an initiative that was launched in 2001, the results of which are now on the agency’s web site and were published in a paper titled “CAN DISTRIBUTED VOLUNTEERS ACCOMPLISH MASSIVE DATA ANALYSIS TASKS?”.
Give it a try - and the next time someone asks what you’ve been up to, you can say “I’ve been doing a little work for NASA.”