NASA Internet Software Shows Planets in 3-D Color
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: (650) 604-5026 / 9000
May 15, 2006
NASA recently updated its World Wind computer program that enables Internet users to explore not only the Earth and the moon, but now permits Web surfers virtually to fly through huge Mars canyons and visit Venus and Jupiter in 3-D color.
The new version also allows users to see some of Jupiter's moons, and to cruise into the depths of Earth's oceans. The newly revised, free program is available on the Web at:
"The users -- from the comfort of their own homes -- can visit anyplace on Earth, Mars and other places in the solar system," said Chris Maxwell, lead World Wind developer at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley. "All you need is (a) standard personal computer (PC) with a decent video card, and a decent Internet connection."
More than 10 million users have used World Wind since NASA first released it about a year ago. "Well over 100,000 new users download the program each week from all over the planet," said Patrick Hogan, program manager for World Wind at NASA Ames.
The program itself is only five megabytes, but data containing place names and imagery make up the rest of the 50-megabyte World Wind download, according to Hogan. A version written in the Java computer language that will run on Macintosh and Linux computers is scheduled for release in September 2006, Hogan noted.
"NASA is providing the free World Wind program to improve public and researcher access to high-quality imagery and other data," said Hogan.
In the future, the planetary imagery will give users the chance to explore not only the moon, Mars, Venus and Jupiter, but also other planets when additional data sets become available.
The computer program can 'transport' Web users to just about anywhere on the moon, when they zoom in from a global view to closer pictures of our natural satellite taken by the Clementine spacecraft in the 1990s.
"We can . . . (now) deliver the moon at 66 feet (20 meters) of resolution," Hogan said. Launched in early 1994, Clementine took 1.8 million pictures of the lunar surface during a two-month orbit of the moon. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and NASA jointly sponsored the Deep Space Program Science Experiment that included the Clementine spacecraft. Its principal objective was to 'space-qualify' lightweight imaging sensors and component technologies for the next generation of Department of Defense spacecraft.
The program enables users to better understand Earth processes such as changing ozone conditions, ocean temperature, weather and earthquake activity.
"We're working with the United States Geological Survey and the Department of Defense to deliver their data to the public," Hogan said. According to Hogan, the Department of Defense itself is using World Wind software, and the National Guard plans to make use of the software to help respond to natural disasters.
NASA processes almost 10 million requests for World Wind imagery daily. The program is delivering terabytes of global NASA satellite data that are a result of years of daily observations of precipitation, temperature, barometric pressure and much more. Hurricane Katrina data are part of World Wind's collection of images.
NASA programmers recently have increased the resolution of images of Earth from 3,281-foot (one-kilometer) resolution to 1,640-foot (500-meter) resolution in an upgrade called 'Blue Marble, Next Generation Earth.' Also, some World Wind data sets include images of the entire Earth at 49-foot (15-meter) resolution. World Wind accesses public domain United States Geological Survey aerial photography and topographic maps as well as Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and Landsat satellite data.
Computer users from more than 100 nations have acquired the free World Wind program, though most users are from the United States.
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