NASA's Ames Research Center to work with Google

The NASA Ames Research Center will open some space in its research park for Silicon Valley neighbor Google Inc., the two parties have announced. The agreement will help the two collaborate on high-performance computing research.

NASA Ames is located in Moffett Field, Calif., about three miles from the headquarters of the Mountain View, Calif.-based Google.

The two organizations have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will allow Google to develop up to 1 million square feet within the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field. Ames plans to make this 4.2-million-square-foot research park, occupying the space of a decommissioned Navy base, a community center focused on technology innovation.

The research park would help engender efforts in areas of technology that would be of use to NASA. It will include homes, laboratories, university classrooms, conference centers and limited retail outlets.

The preliminary MOU also outlines how the two will collaborate on research efforts. They plan on attacking such issues as large-scale data management, distributed computing and the convergence of the fields of biology, information technology and nanotechnology.

Despite their diverging interests, the two companies share a number of technology concerns. One is high-performance computing. Thanks to its Advanced Supercomputing Division, Ames is the home of supercomputing for NASA. It's the place where NASA scientists go when their computing jobs overwhelm their own facilities. Google, being one of the larger providers of Internet search and hosted e-mail services, maintains thousands of servers itself.

Another shared concern is geospatial information, such as satellite imagery. With new services such as Google Earth and Google Maps, the search company is increasingly branching out into packaging and delivering geospatial information, long a specialty of NASA.

'Imagine having a wide selection of images from the Apollo space mission at your fingertips whenever you want it,' said Eric Schmidt, Google chief executive officer, noting one of the ways Google and its users would benefit from the partnership.

For NASA, the collaboration will give the agency more expertise in different forms of high-performance distributed computing, said NASA Ames Center Director G. Scott Hubbard.

'Our architecture is really good at a certain class of physics and engineering problems, but it is not what you use for everything,' he said. 'Google has gone in a different direction. [The architects at Google] have developed an incredible ability to do distributed computing. So having insight into how they do what they do could really benefit us as we think about different kinds of problems.'

Hubbard also mentioned that NASA would like to tap into Google's expertise at handling large amounts of data. 'NASA has huge amounts of content from all the missions that isn't readily accessible to the public or even the science community. I think we can learn a lot from Google about how to do that'maybe even make [Google] a party on how to make it accessible,' he said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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