It’s not often NASA gives people the opportunity to tinker directly with its hardware or, in this case, software. Back in early May, the space organisation set coders a challenge — speed up the programs for its Pleiades supercomputer and you could bag yourself up to $US35,000. A month and a half later, it’s decided to bin the idea.
Called the “High Performance Fast Computing Challenge”, the plan was to crowd-source optimisations for NASA “FUN3D” software, written “predominately in Modern Fortran”.
Unfortunately, the challenge was only open to US citizens over 18, as the software, which is government-owned, has “strict export restrictions”.
Even so, the request saw over 1800 applicants… and that was also a problem, as NASA’s JD Harrington explains:
The extremely high number of applicants … coupled with the difficulty in satisfying the extensive vetting requirements to control the public distribution of the software made it unlikely they would achieve the challenge’s original objectives in a timely manner.
Harrington goes on to say that NASA “looked at several alternatives” to keep the dream alive, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the effort. There are currently “no plans to reorganise or offer this particular challenge again”.