How Cloud Computing Is Contributing To Space Exploration

How Cloud Computing Is Contributing To Space Exploration

How Cloud Computing Is Contributing To Space Exploration

“Space: the final frontier.”

- The first line of the opening voiceover in Star Trek.

After positively impacting businesses on terra firma, cloud computing is now spreading its influence to space. Even as the world celebrates the successful landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity on the Red Planet, Amazon has chalked up a major win in the annals of cloud computing by helping the NASA reach out to the public. If you are one of the curious millions poring over the amazing images being beamed by Curiosity from Mars, cloud computing deserves your gratitude.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is using a wide variety of Amazon’s cloud services and tools – EC2, S3, SimpleDB, Route 53, CloudFront, CloudFormation, Elastic Load Balancing, etc. – to store, collate, analyze and distribute the reams of data being beamed from Curiosity across millions of kilometres of interplanetary space.

At this point, JPL’s data centers are filled to capacity, so we’re looking for ways to cost effectively expand the computational horsepower that we have at our disposal. Cloud computing is giving us that opportunity,” said
Khawaja Shams, manager for data services at La Canada Flintridge-based JPL. “The public gets access as soon as we have access. All the images that come from Mars are processed in the cloud environment before they’re

Amazon released a statement emphasizing the public service nature of its contribution. “With unrelenting goals to get the data out to the public, NASA/JPL prepared to service hundreds of gigabits/second of traffic for hundreds of thousands of concurrent viewers,” it said. In addition to streaming data, cloud computing is also being used to analyze it. “As a result, scientists are able to send a longer sequence of commands to Curiosity that increases the amount of exploration that the Mars Science Laboratory can perform on any given sol (Martian day),” claimed Amazon.

The situation is ripe for PR, and Amazon is not shying away, with the release of a case study that details the achievement. Tech journalist Derrick Harris has an extremely interesting post on Giga Om that details the extensive testing that went into ensuring uninterrupted data streaming from the Martian surface.

The ability of cloud computing to scale up and manage enormous amounts of data is a fact that has been discussed time and again on this website. From business (See: How Cloud Computing Helped Netflix Emerge as a Streaming Media Powerhouse) to healthcare (See: Fighting Cancer with Cloud Computing ) to particle physics (See: Cloud Computing to Join the Search for the God Particle), this has been a winning feature of going on the cloud.

With another outage drawing barbs (AWS Outage – Ground-Hog Day Meets Murphy’s Law; You Guys Should Get A Room! ), new pretenders growing in strength (See: Dropbox Leads the Way in Cloud Storage), and arch-rival Google ramping up the cloud stakes (See: Google’s Partner Program To Push Cloud Services), Amazon can certainly do with some good news.

By Sourya Biswas


Sourya Biswas is a former risk analyst who has worked with several financial organizations of international repute, besides being a freelance journalist with several articles published online. After 6 years of work, he has decided to pursue further studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he has completed his MBA. He holds a Bachelors in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Information Technology. He is also a member of high-IQ organizations Mensa and Triple Nine Society and has been a prolific writer to CloudTweaks over the years...

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