Earlier this month, NASA published a press release publicizing the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) facility.
NEX is a high-performance computing and data access facility that will be used in conjunction with the LandSat Earth program.
This collaborative effort by NASA’s AMES Research Center, NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division, NASA’s Landsat program and the U.S. Geological Survey hopes to further the field of Earth Science by providing the information and tools scientists need.
According to NASA, “The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.(1)” The program has been around since 1972. For the past 40 years, the program has been collecting data through the use of special digitized photographs about our planets continents and coastlines.
Through these images, scientists can provide valuable information about population census, growth of global urbanization and deletion of coastal wetlands. Now, with the addition of a virtual laboratory, scientists will be able to use these satellite observations to take on these global Earth science challenges.
NASA High Resolution Satellite Observations
On their website, NASA describes NEX as, “a new platform for the Earth science community that provides a mechanism for scientific collaboration and knowledge sharing.” (2)
This new facility will allow scientists and researchers access to the hi-res images, along with other Earth science data, in hours after transmission from the Landsat satellites instead of months.
According to Tsengdar Lee, high-end computing program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington:
“NEX greatly simplifies researchers’ access to and analysis of high-resolution data like Landsat.”
However, NEX will offer more than quick access to data, it will also give many researchers super-computing abilities.
This super-computing capability is a result of the project collaborating with NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division. With their help, NEX was able to couple the Landsat data with state-of-the-art supercomputing, Earth system modeling, and workflow management. NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division stated on their website:
“The work environment provides NEX members with community supported modeling, analysis and visualization software in conjunction with datasets that are common to the Earth systems and large-scale computing power together in a flexible framework.” (3)
Increasing Pressure to Study Climate Change
This computing power will help scientists and researchers focus on the problems they are trying to solve instead of getting bogged in computational methods.
Rama Nemani, a senior Earth scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center said in the press release:
“The science community is under increasing pressure not only to study recent and projected changes in climate that likely impact our global environment and natural resources, but also to design solutions to mitigate, or cope, with the likely impacts.”
He went to state that the NEX facility will not only provide the data to study these changes, but also provide the modeling tools needed to determine the solutions to these problems.
NEX has provided an early release of their website and urges user feedback. The site focuses on six key areas of Earth Science: Atmospheric Composition, Weather, Climate Change, Water and Energy Cycles, Carbon Cycles and Ecosystems, and Earth Surface and interior.
Each area contains a variety of projects that users can join, not only to utilize the resources, but to share the data in a social networking form specifically tailored to Earth Science.
The NEX website boasts:
“The web-based knowledge sharing platform provides a forum for NEX members to efficiently share datasets, results, algorithms, codes, and expertise with other members.” (2)
NASA hopes that the NEX facility/virtual laboratory will provide scientists and researchers easy access to the tools and data that they need in their Earth science research.
In addition, the space agency also hopes that scientists and researcher will use it as a collaborative tool for knowledge-sharing in an effort to solve or at least mitigate some of the planet’s growing concerns.