Press Release

Mars Software Honored By NASA

By SpaceRef Editor
August 12, 2004
Filed under , , ,

NASA has selected a data visualization and simulation software package
used by Mars rovers and landers, and a software package that can be
used in aerospace and industrial flow fluid applications, as the “best
of the best” software developed by the agency this year.

The “Science Activity Planner” developed by a team of experts at
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., combines
cutting-edge visualization with sophisticated planning and simulation
capabilities to provide an intuitive interface to Mars rovers and
landers. It is a multi-mission, multi-purpose tool that has achieved
three simultaneous successes in mission operations, public outreach
and technology development.

The software comes in two versions. The first is used in mission
operations and contains the official mission activity dictionary. The
second version was released under the name
“Maestro” to the public for education and outreach. Maestro includes
additional training features that make it a more effective tool for
public engagement.

The software is used heavily in the Mars Exploration Rover Mission on
a daily basis. Scientists on the rover missions depend on the Science
Activity Planner as their primary interface to the Spirit and
Opportunity rovers. Every day, mission scientists and engineers use it
to plan the next actions of the rovers and analyze the data arriving
from Mars. The software has completed over 350 Mars days of successful
mission operations of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers without a
single critical failure and will continue to serve this role until the
end of the mission.

“We are thrilled to receive this award and honored to have been a part
of the amazing team behind the Mars Exploration Rover mission,” said
Jeff Norris, the software team leader at JPL.

NASA also selected the TetrUSS 2004 software as an award winner.
TetrUSS 2004 is a suite of computer programs used for fluid dynamics
and aerodynamics analysis. Originally developed for NASA internal
applications, TetrUSS 2004 has evolved into an efficient and versatile
computer fluid dynamics tool used by engineers and scientists
throughout the nation. The software is widely used in other government
organizations, the aerospace industry, academia and non-aerospace
industries such as automotive, biomedical and civil engineering.

Increased use of TetrUSS 2004 has occurred in critical NASA,
government and industry programs. TetrUSS 2004 is now in use at over
500 sites for all classes of aerospace and industrial fluid flow
applications, inside and outside of NASA, worth many billions of
dollars. The TetrUSS 2004 team leader is Neal Frink of NASA’s Langley
Research Center, Hampton, Va.

NASA began the competition in 1994, designed to reward outstanding
software at the agency, as measured by the following criteria.

  • The science and technology significance of the software and its impact on NASA’s mission
  • The extent of current and potential use
  • The usability of the software
  • The quality factors considered in the software
  • Intellectual property factors such as patents and copyrights
  • Innovation of the software

Software eligible for this award must have NASA intellectual property
interest, be of commercial grade, and be available to appropriate
commercial users or dedicated to a NASA mission.

For more information about the Software of the Year award on the
Internet, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.