JSC’s ISSLive! project is an exceptional example of NASA’s commitment to data and mission transparency in an interactive, participatory environment. For the true space geeks and data lovers among us – I hope you are excited.
“Just 150 miles above us, the International Space Station (ISS) is orbiting. (Sidenote: If you haven’t seen cool open-source projects like this lamp that lights up when the International Space Station is overhead, check it out! -AL) Each day, the astronauts on board perform a variety of activities from exercise, science experiments, and maintenance. Yet, many on the ground do not know about these daily activities. National Aeronautics Space Agency/ Johnson Space Center (NASA/JSC) innovation creation ISSLive! – an education project – is working to bridge this knowledge gap with traditional education channels such as schools, but also non-traditional channels with the non-technical everyday public. ISSLive! provides a website that seamlessly integrates planning and telemetry data, video feeds, 3D models, and iOS and android applications. Through the site, users are able to view astronauts’ daily schedules, in plain English alongside the original data. As an example, when an astronaut is working with a science experiment, a user will be able to read about the activity and for more detailed activities follow provided links to view more information – all integrated into the same site. Live telemetry data from a predefined set can also be provided alongside the activities. For users to learn more, 3D models of the external and internal parts of the ISS are available, allowing users to explore the station and even select sensors, such as temperature, and view a real-time chart of the data. Even ground operations are modeled with a 3D mission control center, providing users information on the various flight control disciplines and showing live data that they would be monitoring.” – update from ISSLive! team
Transparency: Thousands of data points are downloaded every minute from the Station, and ISS Live! makes a broad set of that data open and accessible. Furthermore, ISS Live! will make an application programming interface (API) available as a web service for external developers to take ISS data and put it into their own websites and mobile applications.
A prime challenge for this project has been the translation of the short, highly abbreviated, activity names, flowcharts, and formats used in the NASA operations environment, known as operations nomenclature (or “NASA-ese”), to something more public friendly that does not require unique knowledge. The translator also functions to protect confidential, private, or sensitive data.
Collaboration: This collaborative effort between the Mission Operations Directorate, the Office of Education, the ISS Program, and others around JSC truly demonstrate the best in working together for public engagement. Externally, ISSLive! developers are partnering with Human Computer Interface Design Students at top-ranked Carnegie Mellon University to create application prototypes and interfaces to display ISSLive! data for the public.
The project content will additionally serve as the basis for development of interactive lessons in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, inspiring the next generation of explorers. The questions ‘how does the ISS work’ and ‘what does the ISS do’ are currently not answered well in a STEM context – but ISSLive! is committed to doing exactly that, with real models and real data in a rich multimedia experience.
Participation: You aren’t just watching the Mission Control team look at their screens – you will see some of what they see. (I wish they had this when I was doing high school science projects!) Vitally aware of the power of social media, ISSLive! will incorporate the latest social media feeds relevant to the ISS, including astronaut twitter feeds, image of the day and real-time mission video, giving space enthusiasts and life-long learners another route of participation in NASA’s mission.
The anticipated release date for ISSLive! (via the NASA portal and iTunes) is October 1. My iPad can’t wait!