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How NASA uses the cloud on the final frontier

NASA cloud applications
An open-source cloud computing project, known as OpenStack, was developed by NASA and Rackspace Inc. to standardize the data on NASA websites. (NASA Photo)

When one of NASA’s top geeks talks to the cloud-computing geeks at Amazon Web Services’ re:Invent conference, you can bet the talk is not going to be just about outer space.

Tom Soderstrom, chief technology and innovation officer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, took pains during tonight’s talk in Las Vegas to point out how the space agency was taking advantage of the cloud.

For example, he noted that NASA’s Surface Water Ocean Topography mission (known as SWOT) and the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar mission (aka NISAR) will be sending back a flood of Earth observation data within just a few years.

“It’s 100 terabytes per day, 100 gigabytes per second, all the time. Much too big for our data centers,” he told the audience. “So what are we going to do? We’re going to use cloud computing.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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