NASA Nebula: Enabling Participatory Exploration Through Open Data APIs

In line with the Obama administration's efforts to establish an open and transparent government, one of Nebula's goals is to create a secure gateway through which NASA can share select data sets with outside researchers and the American public while at the same time, limit access to it's highly-secured internal networks.

One of the projects Nebula has been very excited to support enables the public to view and explore the surfaces of the Moon and Mars in unprecedented resolution in both Google Earth and Microsoft World Wide Telescope. The NASA team responsible for these projects leveraged Nebula to perform sophisticated large-scale image processing and hosting of hundreds of thousands of high-resolution images and over 100 terabytes of data. This project involved sophisticated 3D image modeling using 2D image tiles, enabling the public to explore the surfaces of these celestial bodies in realistic, 3D worlds.

As a Federal Agency, NASA must comply with a host of data security and privacy policies, which can sometimes create a challenge in finding a collaborative environment in which to share data with its outside partners. Nebula's architecture is designed from the ground up for interoperability with commercial Cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services, offering NASA researchers the ability to easily port data sets and code to run on commercial Clouds.

Working on a web-centric platform also provides an awesome opportunity for the public to become more involved in NASA's missions. It enables something that in NASA circles has become known as 'Participatory Exploration': public participation by tapping in, and mashing up NASA's data resources, and leveraging NASA's exploration capabilities and assets through open data APIs. It is our hope that by enabling these capabilities, Nebula will be instrumental in exciting the next generation of big thinkers about the myriad possibilities of space exploration.

Posted on Dec. 3, 2009 by Gretcurtis: Original blog posting

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.