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Google and NASA take search to space

US big boys to collaborate on research projects

Google and NASA have signed a wide-ranging agreement to collaborate on future research projects aimed at pooling the computing knowledge of both organisations.

During a press conference at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, Google chairman 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 neighbouring organisations.

NASA is drowning in a sea of data that it needs to analyse and organise, Hubbard said. Google's technical expertise in organising 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 added.

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. The Ames Research Center is home to the world's third most powerful supercomputer as measured by the Top500.org list of systems, a server built by Silicon Graphics using Intel's Itanium 2 processors.

The two organisations plan to build 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 organisations in the US that takes a long-term approach to research, Schmidt said. Google, which heavily emphasises individual and corporate research and development, can learn much from NASA's approach toward solving the problems of the future, he added.

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

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