NASA-Google partnership ready for liftoff

CNET News | December 18, 2006
By Caroline McCarthy

The NASA Ames Research Center and Google have signed a formal agreement to collaborate on projects ranging from studying scientific-data search technology to using Google Earth flyovers for the moon and Mars.

The R&D partnership was announced by Google CEO Eric Schmidt in September 2005, but a year later representatives from both Google and NASA Ames acknowledged that there were roadblocks. Monday's announcement finally solidified their agreement and gave hints as to what some upcoming products of the partnership may be.

The NASA Ames Research Center, which specializes in science and engineering projects, is located at Moffett Field in California, on former Navy land that's a stone's throw from the big names of Silicon Valley--including Google's campus in Mountain View. This year, research at NASA Ames has included heat shield technology, the commercialization of space exploration and wildfire monitoring.

The first collaboration between Google and NASA Ames will concern the availability of NASA information over the Internet. For example, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a statement that "soon" there will be Google Earth flyovers available for the surfaces of Mars and the moon. Additional data will include real-time weather forecasting and visualization, as well as tracking of the International Space Station and space shuttle activity.

Future NASA-Google developments in the works aren't limited to fusing NASA data into Google applications. Other planned projects mentioned in Monday's announcement deal with human-computer interaction, education-related collaborations and possibly even joint missions.