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​Filipino IT experts hope NASA announces Space Challenge winners as U.S. government operations resume

Filipino Information Technology enthusiasts are hoping that the temporary reopening of U.S. government operations after a 35-day shutdown would pave the way for the announcement of the winners in the NASA Space Apps Challenge, where one of the finalists is an app developed by a group of Filipino IT experts.

The announcement of the winners in the global competition was supposed to have been made in mid-January but has suffered a delay due to the federal government shutdown caused by a standoff over border security.

The shutdown, which began last Dec. 21, ended on Friday after U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a funding measure that will allow the reopening of government operations until Feb. 15.

The following announcement has been posted on the Space Challenge website: Due to a lapse in US Government funding, NASA is currently closed, and federal staff are not able to perform official duties nor have access to official email, telephone messages, or social media accounts during this time. This may result in a delay in the announcement of Space Apps 2018 global winners. Please watch this page for further announcement when NASA re-opens.”

NASA is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the United States federal agency responsible for aerospace research, aeronautics, and the civilian space program.

The longest U.S. government shutdown has also caused the postponement by NASA of this year’s Day of Remembrance, for those who have sacrificed their lives for the space missions, scheduled Jan. 31.

With the funding measure signed on Jan 25, federal workers who have already missed two paychecks due to the budget stalemate are expected to get back to work in four to five days, news reports say.

An app named ISDApp, that would enable fishermen to receive scientific data without Internet connection, is one of the 25 finalists in the NASA Space Apps Challenge during a global hackathon held simultaneously in different parts of the world last October. In the Philippines, it was held at De La Salle University.

It is the first time an entry from the Philippines made it to the global list.

The winning app was developed by a group of Filipino IT professionals who call themselves iNON (It’s Now or Never), composed of Revbrain G. Martin, Marie Jeddah Legaspi, and Julius Czar Torreda.

A Filipino group, iNON, is one of the 25 finalists in NASA’s App Challenge

ISDApp, from the Tagalog word “isda” meaning fish, is one of the finalists under the category, Galactic Impact, described by NASA as “the solution with the most potential to improve life on Earth or in the Universe”.

NASA will choose six winners who will be invited to visit the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Since its inception in 2012, the International Space Apps Challenge has become the world’s largest global hackathon, engaging thousands of global citizens to collaborate in building innovative solutions to complex challenges using NASA’s open data. Hackathons are technology development marathons that draw on the talents and initiative of bright-minded people. Space Apps inspires local innovation communities to convene, cooperate, and create.

(This story is produced by VERA Files under a project supported by the Internews’ Earth Journalism Network, which aims to empower journalists from developing countries to cover the environment more effectively.)