Even for them this contest is something unique and big.
"Tag an asteroid, save Earth, win $50K cash"
The Planetary Society will announce a $50,000 prize for "Asteroid Tagging Designs" tomorrow at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the Apophis Mission Design Competition, you are invited to submit designs for a mission to intercept and "tag" a potentially hazardous asteroid headed towards Earth.
Apophis is a near-Earth object (NEO), which will come closer to Earth in 2029 than the orbit of our geostationary satellites. On that pass, the asteroid will be gravitationally perturbed to an unknown orbit, one that that may have the slim possibility of hitting Earth in 2036.
Very precise tracking may be needed to determine the probability of such a collision. Such precise tracking may require "tagging" the asteroid, perhaps with a beacon -- a transponder or reflector -- or some other method. Exactly how an asteroid could best be tagged is not yet known, nor is it obvious, which is why The Planetary Society is holding a competition.Acknowledgement: Boing Boing