Google and NASA join forces

Could Google Earth be extended to cover other planets, or even the entire solar system?

Google plans to work with NASA on a number of research and development activities, the search giant announced on Wednesday.

The two organisations have signed a memorandum of understanding that outlines plans for cooperation in various areas, including supercomputing and "bio-info-nano convergence" — the combination of biological, information and nanotechnology research to make new materials. Google also plans to build an office, which will be "up to one million square feet" in size, in the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field.

Google and NASA provided a few details of what the collaboration could result in. "Imagine having a wide selection of images from the Apollo space mission at your fingertips whenever you want it. That's just one small example of how this collaboration could help broaden technology's role in making the world a better place," said Google's chief executive, Eric Schmidt.

"Our planned partnership presents an enormous range of potential benefits to the space program. Just a few examples are new sensors and materials from collaborations on bio-info-nano convergence, improved analysis of engineering problems as well as Earth, life and space science discoveries from supercomputing and data mining, and bringing entrepreneurs into the space programme," said NASA Ames Center director G. Scott Hubbard.

Other technologies that are likely to be on the wish list of space enthusiasts include an extension to Google Earth to cover other planets, or even the entire solar system.

Google and NASA also did not provide any details of how this venture will be funded and whether the results of this joint venture will be freely available, although both organisations emphasised that the main beneficiary of this collaboration will be the American public.

"While our joint efforts will benefit both organizations, the real winner will be the American public," said Hubbard.