NASA and Google to Collaborate

Internet giant Google and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Ames Research Center have entered into what they’re callng a “Space Act Agreement,” which amounts to plans to collaborate on a series of projects which will not only put NASA information on computer user’s desktops in new ways, but also help the agency deal with technical challenges in large scale data management, distributed computing, and computer interfaces. NASA’s Ames Research Center is located close to the Google campus in California’s Silicon Valley; the organizations have collaborated before, partnering to develop up to 1 million square feet of the center’s Moffet Field research park.

“Partnering with NASA made perfect sense for Google, as it has a wealth of technical expertise and data that will be of great use to Google as we look to tackle many computing issues on behalf of our users,” said Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, in a release. “We’re pleased to move forward to collaborate on a variety of technical challenges through the signing of the Space Act Agreement.”

The first phase of the “Space Act Acgreement” will focus on making NASA’s wealth of information more accessible via the Internet—while NASA has been publishing astonishing amounts of data and information on the Web for over a decade, it’s always been scattered across a morass of sites, and often could only be located folks familiar with NASA’s internal organization—even when using Google. In the near future, the two groups will collaborate on tools offering real-time weather visualization and forecasting, high-resolutions 3D maps of the moon and Mars, as well as real-time tracking of the space shuttle and the International Space Station. (It’s worth noting Google already has kinda cool interactive maps of the Moon and Mars online.)

Other project include incorporating NASA data sets into Google Earth with an eye toward cognitive modeling for human/computer interaction. The organizations also expect to work together on joint research projects, facilities, education topics, and even mission objectives.

“Our collaboration with Google will demonstrate that the private and public sectors can accomplish great things together,” said S. Pete Worden, Ames center director, in a statement. “I want NASA Ames to establish partnerships with the private sector that will encourage innovation, while advancing the Vision for Space Exploration and commercial interests.”

[For the rest of you Martian ex-pats out there reading this: sorry, no, Google does not anticipate its Mars maps will include real-time traffic data on the canals or the subterranean arcata back home. Just rely on the telepathic spider buggies; you’ll be fine.]

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