NASA just keeps giving and giving and giving...
February 18, 2005 11:44 PM   Subscribe

World Wind is a global information system that pulls together a high resolution map of the entire world and layers into it satellite information from a variety of sources. The program lets you zoom from satellite altitude into any place on Earth, leveraging high resolution LandSat imagery and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) elevation data to experience Earth terrain (or any planet with the data) in visually rich 3D, just as if you were really there. Virtually visit any place in the world. Look across the Andes, into the Grand Canyon, over the Alps or along the African Sahara. Check out the screenshots. (Windows only, 169mb download, torrent available.) While you're there, check out Virtual Lab, a virtual scanning electron microscope (screenshots), available for Mac OSX, Linux, and Windows.
posted by crunchland (12 comments total)
Wow this is wonderful, thank you very much.

Oh, yes, just clicked on your name as well....tooo funny
posted by fingerbang at 12:21 AM on February 19, 2005

That looks really cool; downloading it right now.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 12:47 AM on February 19, 2005

Swordfish - make sure you zoom down onto and around mountains - the 3d effects they have built are really rather good
posted by fingerbang at 12:49 AM on February 19, 2005

Just wondering how this compares to Google's newly acquired Keyhole. I downloaded the trial of Keyhole and wound up paying the $30 bucks because I was blown away.

To be able to type in "24 Mathews Avenue, Redondo Beach, CA" and watch the satellite map zoom down to the house was amazing. I did the same with Disneyland and got a close up of Space Mountain.

However, "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" was a bit different. Everything was in high resolution, but there seemed to be brown blocks painted over the actual white house - to conceal the missile launchers perhaps?
posted by Dag Maggot at 2:27 AM on February 19, 2005

I was wondering about the brown spots as well. When watching BBC news or West Wing you get to see some details, such as the snipers on the roof. MS' Terraserver is also quite nice, they have some recent urban areas data which is neat. But I think it is also browned out there.
posted by nostrada at 3:49 AM on February 19, 2005

NASA's World Wind software is very similar to Keyhole, and is free. It's not quite as slick as Keyhole is, however.

Or so I hear.
posted by moonbiter at 4:56 AM on February 19, 2005

I was wondering about the brown spots as well.

There's an on-going debate within the spatial data community about how much data "protection" is needed.

Many of us have a bias toward making as much data and information as possible as widely available as possible. We're in the data-sharing business, after all, and are most successful when we can bring many different data streams together.

Since 9/11, however, we've been encouraged by the folks in the security community to not make scouting target sites any easier for the terrorists. So we are left to try to find a balance between the value and the risks of data availability. I think the "brown-outs" are a fairly good compromise. They allow us to see a great deal of detail and obscure only the things that really should be obscured.

Full disclosure. I am GIS Coordinator for the state of Delaware (part of my job, anyway). We have an online base map called DataMIL with which we want to make available a detailed digital topographic map of Delaware. We collected high-resolution orthophotography for the state in 2002, but have had to limit our public offering to a lower-resolution version because of security concerns.

Lately, however, we've noticed that higher-resolution data is available elsewhere, so we are reconsidering. I've found high-resolution orthos of downtown DC in which the government buildings are artfully obscured such that they look as they should when viewed from "far away," but are without detail when viewed up close.
posted by mmahaffie at 6:01 AM on February 19, 2005

I was wondering about the brown spots as well.

There's an on-going debate within the spatial data community about how much data "protection" is needed.
Be aware that the brown-outs are not the only changes made at certain locations.

Cryptome recently posted details of the USGS and it's use of camouflage vegetation (lots of pics in that link) around certain areas of the PresRes.
posted by lowlife at 7:38 AM on February 19, 2005

odinsdream, I probably wasn't hugely clear in my earlier post. It was early.

I don't fully agree with withholding/obscuring data. I lost that argument in my state. There are only a few places that might need to be protected here, though the folks in Safety and Homeland Security disagree with me very strongly on that. Even so, I hope to be able to make the high-res orthophotos publicly available soon.

That said, places like the white house should probably be obscured in some ways. They are undoubtedly targets. There are very likely aspects of their defenses that would be visible in high-res orthophotography; guard posts, gun emplacements and the like. One probably would want to hide skylights and air-handlers, though I suppose those are hardened in some way.

It is also possible to blur, obscure, or disguise those features without "violating" the outline of the building. I have seen hi-res DC orthos on-line, for example, in which I can identify the make of a car parked next to a senate office building, and I can recognize the office building, but see no roof details on the building.

I have no problem with that. As a data user, I need to see neighborhoods, blocks, the relationships of building to building and things like that (I'm a planner), but I don't really need to see roof details.

I have talked to other states where they are working on selectively blurring small areas and feathering that blur out to make it less intrusive. That could be promising. Simply cutting out, sharply blurring, or "browning out" places may serve to highlight to someone looking for a target that "Hey! Here's a target!" Not a problem for the white house, we all know where that is. But other sites may be more... subtle and hiding them might "out" them. (Just as getting adult magazines in brown paper wrappers simply calls attention to them, I guess)

I've been bumming out/obsessing about this issue for some time.
posted by mmahaffie at 10:19 AM on February 19, 2005

I get a 500K/s download. NASA has some phat pipes!
posted by meehawl at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2005

this program says it requires the microsoft .net framework. not sure what that entails, i couldnt get my .net download to work
posted by GleepGlop at 2:16 PM on February 19, 2005

Note that there is a 1.9 M patch to take you from d to e. Somehow I missed that until half way through the big download. It also appears they are getting hit today although not as bad as when it got slashdotted last fall.
posted by mss at 4:24 PM on February 19, 2005

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