Google, NASA sign Research and Development pact

Google Inc. and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed a wide-ranging agreement Wednesday to collaborate on future research projects aimed at pooling the computing knowledge of both organizations.

During a press conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, Google Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt joined Scott Hubbard, director of the Ames Research Center, to discuss the mutual benefits that will flow from a partnership between the two neighboring organizations.

NASA is drowning in a sea of data that it needs to analyze and organize, Hubbard said. Google’s technical expertise in organizing information will be of great help to NASA’s scientists, who are trying to deal with a terabyte of data coming to Earth from space vehicles each day, he said.

Google’s interest in NASA has much to do with the space agency’s work in developing huge parallel supercomputers, Schmidt said. Google uses a low-cost distributed method of computing that while currently effective, will eventually need to become more like the supercomputers employed by NASA, he said.

The Ames Research Center is home to the world’s third most powerful supercomputer as measured by the list of systems, a server built by Silicon Graphics Inc. using Intel Corp.’s Itanium 2 processors.

The two organizations plan to build new research buildings at the Mountain View site that will host both Google and NASA engineers, allowing them to collaborate on projects and share research ideas, Hubbard said.

NASA is one of the few remaining research organizations in the U.S. that takes a long-term approach to research, Schmidt said. Google, which heavily emphasizes individual and corporate research and development, can learn much from NASA’s approach toward solving the problems of the future, he said.

For its part, NASA no longer commands the as large a share of the U.S. budget as it once did. Partnerships with technology companies like Google will become increasingly important to NASA if it is to reach future goals, such as the exploration of Mars, Hubbard said.

Details were scarce as to how the organizations plan to implement their partnership, but Google will help construct several buildings as part of a redevelopment plan at Ames Research Center, Schmidt said.

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