How NASA uses Google Earth

All of us use Google Earth in different ways. Some use it to look for new homes, some use it for tracking satellites, some use it to explore far corners of the world and some use to to plan missions to space — like NASA.
Matt Deans, who is with NASA’s Intelligent Robotics Group, recently held a Google Tech Talk to discuss how NASA makes use of tools such as Google Earth.


In particular, Matt discusses the following:

Did you know that NASA uses Google Earth for mission planning and real-time mission operations? Are you curious about the software NASA is developing to carry out future human and robot missions? Would you like to know how modern Web frameworks can be used for data-driven field science?

The Exploration Ground Data System (xGDS) is a suite of reusable software tools for human and robotic missions. xGDS supports mission planning, ingesting and managing geo-referenced and time-series data, and visualization/analysis. xGDS is highly modular, Web-based and makes extensive use of Apache, Django, the Google Earth plug-in, JQuery, and

In this talk, I will discuss the use cases that xGDS was designed to support and describe how it is implemented. I will show how the Intelligent Robotics Group has used xGDS for exploration missions involving astronauts (Arizona), planetary rovers (Canada and Hawaii), and personal submarines (British Columbia and Florida). And, I’ll briefly talk about how xGDS can be used for other applications, such as crisis and disaster response.

You can watch the full video here:

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Alan Cohen says:

    When will Google Earth be functioning properly again?
    It still refuses to open correctly and temporarily disables the drivers.

  2. Ian Katz says:

    The technique they’re using for the mission planner is one that I noticed and exploited a few years ago:

    You can download the code for it here:

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