Building a cloud for planetary defense

To defend the Earth from hazardous objects such as asteroids, comets and large meteoroids, NASA announced it is working with George Mason University on a Planetary Defense Mitigation Gateway, a cloud-based platform to house data and tools for scientists working on planetary defense.

Research into mitigating the potential impact of near-Earth objects is being conducted in the U.S. and abroad, but the information is scattered across the internet partly because of a lack a unified, structured architecture to house the data. A single platform would consolidate the available research and allow scientists to make faster, data-driven decisions.

The cloud-based knowledge base will provide easy access to research related to planetary defense and advance discovery, collaboration, innovation and education and ultimately decision support, researchers said in a March 2019 paper on the project.

The gateway's primary features include:

  • A smart search discovery engine based specific to the planetary defense knowledge base, information mining and reasoning mechanism.
  • A document archiving and understanding system that manages the results produced by the planetary defense community.
  • An evolving knowledge base compiled from existing literature, using natural language processing and machine learning.
  • A 3D visualization tool that allows viewers to analyze near-Earth approaches in three-dimensions using adjustable parameters to simulate how asteroids could be deflected by space vehicles and particle systems simulation.

Future plans include incorporating 3D models of near-Earth objects captured by satellites and building a dynamic mitigation scenario simulation into the visualization tool that is based on rocket trajectory values and deflection variables.

The shared digital repository will organize the complex system in order to increase efficiency and expand planetary defense efforts, researchers said.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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