NASA Expands Open Source Activities

On January 4, 2012, NASA launched, a new website dedicated to helping the organization unify and expand its open source activities.

In a blog post, William Eshagh, a technologist working on Open Government and the Nebula Cloud Computing Platform out of the NASA Ames Research Center, explains:

In our initial release, we are focusing on providing a home for the current state of open source at the Agency. This includes guidance on how to engage the open source process, points of contact, and a directory of existing projects. By elucidating the process, we hope to lower the barriers to building open technology in partnership with the public.

Eshagh says that the second phase will concentrate on "providing a robust forum for ongoing discussion of open source concepts, policies, and projects at the Agency" and phase three will focus on version control, issue tracking, documentation, planning and management. "During this phase, we will create and host a tool, service, and process chain to further lower the burden to going open," he writes.

The new site has a Citizen Engagement page that shows all posts tagged "citizen", and the the Code page links to a post that Eshagh made on December 23, 2011, announcing NASA's presence on GitHub. In that post, he explains, "Our first public repository houses NASA’s popular World Wind Java project, an open source 3D interactive world viewer. In addition, we are actively reaching out to other open source software projects within NASA and encouraging them to make use of this and similar resources."

Check out the Open Source page for posts focusing on open source news and technology. There you'll see a December post about SpaceLab for iOS, a commercially developed app created to perform experiments onboard the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS).

The site also links to a 2011 Annual Report written by Nick Skytland, Open Government program manager at the Johnson Space Center. Skytland shares a cool infographic and an outline of 2011 accomplishments and writes, "In 2012, we look forward to continuing to work with you to share NASA’s data, push forward the use of Open Source technologies, and create new participatory opportunities to engage citizens in our space exploration and aeronautics mission."

Keep an eye on the new site if you want to learn more about the role open source plays at NASA.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.