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NASA Wants You to Help Save the Ocean’s Corals by Playing This New Game

NASA’s been using its sophisticated instruments and supercomputers to peek beneath the surface of the ocean to examine at-risk ecosystems for quite some time, but there’s only so much it can do on its own. Cue: you.

Go ahead and start callin’ yourself an honorary astronaut, because the National Aeronautics and Space Administration needs you to help save our precious coral reefs by playing a computer game in your underpants. To begin your next act as an amateur scientist, download the Apple-only NeMO-Net game from the App Store and dive into a virtual ocean tour. Traveling in your trusty vessel, the Nautilus, you’ll explore NASA’s own 3D images to find and categorize types of coral and ocean life. 

NeMO-Net's an eco game, and a numbers game -- the more people who play, the more insight NASA can glean.

"The more people who play NeMO-NET, the better the supercomputer's mapping abilities become," the Administration said in a press release. "Once it has been able to accurately classify corals from low-resolution data included in the game, the supercomputer will be able to map out the world's corals at an unprecedented resolution. With that map, scientists will better understand what is happening to corals and find ways to preserve them." 

But ma’am, I am a person of letters, not of sciences, you must be thinking. Worry not: "Anyone, even a first grader, can play this game and sort through these data to help us map one of the most beautiful forms of life we know of,” Ved Chirayath, NASA’s Ames Research Center’s principal investigator, said in a statement. 

“This is a 3-D coloring game.” Chirayath elaborated in a phone call with Thrillist. “It’s a 3-D coloring game where you get to color and classify everything under water, and save the world in the process.”

“A lot of folks are asking me now, why should we be mapping corals during a viral pandemic? Isn’t the priority on looking for drugs and looking for a cure or a vaccine for COVID-19,” Chirayath said. 

But a little coral mapping now could lead to scientific strides in the future.

“Coral reefs are actually home to some of the leading drugs that we use, they have really advanced compounds in them. The antiviral that turned around the HIV epidemic came from a sponge that was in a coral reef, in the '80s,” Chirayath said. “And it’s just one of many antiviral compounds that have been derived from these systems, as well as chemotherapy drugs, anesthetic drugs, the list goes on.” 

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