NASA and Google have signed an agreement to work together to solve cosmic computing problems and channel information from space around the world via the Internet.
The crunch of Martian soil underfoot and the feel of Martian wind against your cheek could one day be experienced by anyone with an internet connection as a result of a new collaboration between NASA and internet titan Google.
Google has already produced interactive maps of Mars and the Moon by combining their own software with NASA imagery (see NASA and Google bring Mars to PCs everywhere).
Now, NASA and Google have signed a Space Act Agreement that will see the two organisations cooperating to make more NASA data accessible to anyone on the internet.
“As we go back to the Moon, as we go on to Mars, as we go to near-Earth asteroids, we want every person not only in America but throughout the world to be able to travel with us and to feel the excitement of what it feels like to be on a new planet,” says S. Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, US.
The collaboration could eventually lead to capabilities resembling those of the “holodeck” in Star Trek, Worden says. As future robots explore the surface of Mars, this technology “would enable people to feel the crunch of Martian soil underneath their feet as the robots move around â€“ maybe feel the Martian wind on your face,” he says.
In the nearer term, the collaboration will make more of NASA’s Moon and Mars imagery available for online exploration. Some Mars imagery is already accessible in 3D through a programme NASA developed called World Wind (see Space exploration program is out of this world).
Google feels NASA has an important mission that positively impacts humanity, says Google engineering director Daniel Clancy.
“Google is entering this because we’re happy to see how we can help support that mission,” he says. “We feel some of Google’s technologies and capabilities can work with NASA to increase that impact.”
Even though it is theoretically in the public domain, much of the data from NASA missions is not readily available to the public because it is in not in an easily usable form, says Ames business development director Chris Kemp.
He says NASA and Google are set to change that. “We want to make that information as useful and as accessible to everyone as possible,” he says.