NASA World Wind Infrastructure for Spatial Data

Mr. Patrick Hogan
NASA World Wind Manager, NASA

Abstract. Spatial information intelligence is a global issue that will increasingly affect our ability to survive as a species. Collectively we must better appreciate the complex relationships that make life on Earth possible. Providing spatial information in its native context can accelerate our ability to process that information. To maximize this ability to process information, three basic elements are required: data delivery (server technology), data access (client technology), and data processing (information intelligence). NASA World Wind provides open source client and server technologies based on open standards. The possibilities for data processing and data sharing are enhanced by this inclusive infrastructure for geographic information. It is interesting that this open source and open standards approach, unfettered by proprietary constraints, simultaneously provides for entirely proprietary use of this same technology.

Why World Wind? Over ten years ago NASA World Wind began as a single program with specific functionality, to deliver NASA content. But as the possibilities for virtual globe technology became more apparent, we found that while enabling a new class of information technology, we were also getting in the way.

Researchers, developers and even users expressed their desire for World Wind functionality in ways that would service their specific needs. They want to add their own features. They want to manage their own data. They told us that only with this kind of flexibility, could their objectives and the potential for this technology be truly realized. World Wind is a set of development tools, a software development kit (SDK) that allows a software engineer to create applications requiring geographic visualization.

Modular Componentry. Accelerated evolution of a technology requires that the essential elements of that technology be modular components such that each can advance independent of the other elements. World Wind therefore changed its mission from providing a single information browser to enabling a whole class of 3D geographic applications. Instead of creating a single program, World Wind is a suite of components that can be selectively used in any number of programs.

World Wind technology can be a part of any application. Or it can be extended with additional functionalities by application developers. World Wind makes it possible to include virtual globe visualization and server technology in support of any objective. As open source, the world community can collectively collaborate in advancing this technology, and thereby continually benefit from optimization and increased functionality of this open source infrastructure.

Open Source + Open Standards = Accelerated Solutions. NASA World Wind is NASA Open Source software. This means that the source code is fully accessible for anyone to freely use, even in association with proprietary technology.

Facilitate Solutions. The ability to effectively deliver spatial data is an essential element of the US Executive Order 12906 for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). Open standards for data format facilitate data access. In the same manner, an open source 'standard' visualization tool facilitates the ability for others to generate spatial data solutions, proprietary or other. This open source technology for data access and visualization, also improves the ability for information intelligence, the analytical results, to be readily and more effectively shared. NASA World Wind open source technology provides the foundational tool for spatial data visualization and facilitates the creation and evolution of spatial data analysis and information exchange.

Mr. Patrick Hogan currently manages the NASA World Wind development team, a group of world class engineers producing open source software that has received National awards and NASA Software of the Year for 2009/2010. During his 20 years with NASA, Patrick managed environmental programs and more recently the NASA Learning Technologies (NLT) program. NLT was an incubation 'tank' for technologies to move NASA content into education. NLT is where World Wind was born. Patrick, a former pilot, deep sea diver and high school science teacher, has a Master's in Earth Science and is a Registered Geologist in the State of California.