If you’ve ever looked at the International Space Station or a Mars rover and thought that with enough sheet metal, duct tape, rocket fuel and know-how you could build one yourself, help is on the way. On April 10, 2014, NASA is releasing to the general public, at no cost, a master catalog of over 1,000 software projects developed by its engineers.
The technologies available in the catalog are impressive. They include software for life support functions, aeronautics, structural analysis, climate simulators and rocket guidance systems as well as project management systems and design tools to aid in development. Not all of the code is available to every backyard Buzz Lightyear. Some is restricted to industry, academia or other government agencies.
Jim Adams, NASA’s deputy chief technologist, explains the purpose of the software catalog.
NASA is committed to the principles of open government. By making NASA resources more accessible and usable by the public, we are encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. Our technology transfer program is an important part of bringing the benefit of space exploration back to Earth for the benefit of all people.
Earlier this year, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) published a similar catalog of some of the Pentagon’s software in areas such as data science, cyber and anomaly detection. While this is the first large-scale offering to the general public by NASA, it has released some software before. The Hubble Space Telescope’s star-mapping algorithm has been used to track whale sharks and polar bears.
Besides listing the available software, the catalog will show how to obtain the code. Eventually the database will be searchable and ultimately the site will host the code.
If you need additional DIY help, NASA won’t provide duct tape or chewing gum, but perhaps you can find some instructions or the software for making Velcro.