Google and NASA have announced plans to cooperate on R&D activities in the fields of large-scale data management, supercomputing and the “encouragement of entrepreneurial space industry”. The cooperation plans also involve Google occupying up to 1 million square feet of office and lab space at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley.
NASA’s press release sounds very impressive and somewhat mysterious to the scientific layperson, with NASA Ames Center Director G. Soctt Hubbard quoted as saying: “Our planned partnership presents an enormous range of potential benefits to the space program. Just a few examples are new sensors and materials from collaborations on bio-info-nano convergence, improved analysis of engineering problems, as well as Earth, life and space science discoveries from supercomputing and data mining, and bringing entrepreneurs into the space program. While our joint efforts will benefit both organizations, the real winner will be the American public.”
In plain terms, this cooperation could make huge amounts of previously inaccessible information available to Internet users. Imagine being able to search and view data from the Apollo space mission via Google, or being able to look at crop patterns or local temperatures via Google Earth. While Google engineers won’t get access to the NASA supercomputer named “Project Columbia”, they will be able to discuss supercomputing problems with the NASA engineers to assist their search engine and other technologies. It will be interesting to see how Google exploits the commercial potential of this cooperation!