NASA and Microsoft have announced plans to make planetary images and data available via the internet under a space act agreement.

Through this project, NASA and Microsoft will jointly develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to make NASA content, including high-resolution scientific images and data from Mars and the moon, explorable on WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft’s online virtual telescope for exploring the universe.

Under the joint agreement, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, will process and host more than 100Tb of data, enough to fill 20,000 DVDs. WorldWide Telescope will incorporate the data later in 2009 and feature imagery from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, known as MRO.

According to NASA, the WorldWide Telescope is a Web 2.0 visualisation environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from ground- and space-based telescopes for a rich media guided exploration of the universe.

Tony Hey, corporate vice-president of Microsoft external research in Redmond, Washington, said: “This collaboration between Microsoft and NASA will enable people around the world to explore new images of the moon and Mars in a rich, interactive environment through the WorldWide Telescope.”

Computer Business Review