Wednesday, April 20, 2016

International Space Apps Challenge

This weekend I'm participating in the International Space Apps Challenge.  I'm going to build an app I've been thinking about for years, but has no commercial viability whatsoever.

That's right, it's a NASA earth data set browser.  Obviously, just a subset of earth data.  Like, the stuff that's easy to access.

Global Imagery Browser Service

NASA provides a really nice back end for accessing some of their (near) real-time data sets for the earth.  You can get a fair bit of historical data too.  And they provide a really nice web interface.  Check out NASA WorldView.

There are only two problems with this otherwise awesome web app.  First, it's a web app so mediocre on mobile devices.  Second, it's not a globe.  Because globe.

Worldview for Mobile

And that's the goal for this weekend's hackathon:  A Worldview clone for iOS devices on a globe.  We won't call it that, obviously, but I do plan to borrow its configuration files.  Because open source.  And lazy.

Now you might say "The globe and the images and... that looks hard!"  Actually, no.  I make a toolkit that does all of that.  This is going to be an exercise in user interface and add ons.  I'll deal with the user interface and...

Other People

If anyone wants to join my team, you are welcome.  It's going to be an exercise in software engineering, I'm afraid.  I can't think of much that isn't software development here, but I'm open to ideas.

I'm going to concentrate on the main user interface for iPad and iPhone.  I can think of a few other features that might be very cool and (best of all) largely separate.

  • Star field:  The toolkit has one, but I've never verified that it makes any sense.  You could make it look better, update it based on the time and verify that it's correct.
  • Planets: We're using the AA+ toolkit for sun and moon positions.  You could add the planets.
  • Sun & Moon: The existing sun and moon are there, but they could look better.  Phase of the moon would be cool.
  • Satellites: All of the satellites that contribute data have predictable positions.  It'd be cool to see their locations at any given time and perhaps their tracks.
  • Other data sets: Got other earth data sets you'd like to see?  Might be easy enough to add.
Anything you can think of is fair game too, of course.

The app itself will be released open source and, if we get something good, published to the app store after a little testing.

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