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NASA To Catalog and Release Source Code For Over 1,000 Projects

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the go-big-or-go-home dept.

NASA 46

An anonymous reader writes "By the end of next week, NASA will release a master catalog of over 1,000 software projects it has conducted over the years and will provide instructions on how the public can obtain copies of the source code. NASA's goal is to eventually 'host the actual software code in its own online repository, a kind of GitHub for astronauts.' This follows NASA's release of the code running the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer a few years back. Scientists not affiliated with NASA have already adapted some of NASA's software. 'In 2005, marine biologists adapted the Hubble Space Telescope's star-mapping algorithm to track and identify endangered whale sharks. That software has now been adapted to track polar bears in the arctic and sunfish in the Galapagos Islands.' The Hubble Space Telescope's scheduling software has reportedly also been used to schedule MRIs at hospitals and as control algorithms for online dating services. The possibilities could be endless."

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Wait... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660251)

Code that's actually reusable?

I always thought that code crashes and burns when it reaches a certain age... I mean, there must be a reason why Windows XP suddenly seems to disintegrate or why everything ever written in COBOL suddenly stops working after 40 years of doing the job just fine?

Soundtrack (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660379)

Here's a soundtrack [youtube.com] for this thread.
 
Not the official soundtrack...more of a modified soundtrack removing the annoying hippie music and adding the awesome score music!

Beautiful Soundtrack! -=[Mod Parent UP]=- (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660473)

Wow, so beautiful. Talk about beauty [slashdot.org] in Apollo style music.

#tbf #apollo13 #music #muzak #score #instrumental #amazing

Re:Wait... What? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 4 months ago | (#46660439)

Then you are missinformed (in many ways) code does not age. If the surroundings don't change the code will run just as ever till the end of the universe.
Regarding Cobol: strange that still in our days a huge percentage of code is Cobol.

Re:Wait... What? (3, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about 4 months ago | (#46660481)

Code works... User Expectation Changes.

COBOL code still works. However people don't want to use it in a terminal/terminal emulator. They want it on a Web Page, or at least via GUI screens. Being that these screens now have a resolution of at least 1024x768 (Usually much higher) vs 640x200 displayed in text of 80x25 people will want to see more data per screen, charts and graphs next to their data.
We use to have positions called Data Entry and Computer Operators. Who's job was just to punch in data from one system to the next and people who use the software, who are trained not to cause it to crash. Today we get data from many feeds, and the system needs to be crash proof.
Your New Device has a new set of User Inputs and Outputs that the OS needs to handle. Multi-Touch screens, Multible displays, Cameras, motion sensors, GPS... which could offer an advantage if implemented.

We look back at the old computers and we go wow how cool were they, they seem to do the same job as today's computers did but with 1/100th the performance. But what has changed is the software had gradually did more work, that you use to do by hand. Plus they are a heck a lot more reliable then they were 20+ years ago.

Re:Wait... What? (4, Informative)

Required Snark (1702878) | about 4 months ago | (#46660807)

Factually incorrect: "Plus they are a heck a lot more reliable then they were 20+ years ago."

Over twenty years ago there were computers that hardware and software that were designed to work together. At least two of these systems had extra tag bits in memory that defined the memory contents. Specifically I am talking about Symbolics Lisp Machines and Burroughs Large Systems that natively ran Algol. I worked on both of these systems and they were intrinsically more reliable then any systems I know of today.

Because of the tagged memory they had hardware protection against a large class of errors that current systems encounter all the time. It was possible to find the bugs and eliminate them so they did not re-occur. It also protected against having undetected errors, which is a true nightmare.

Having hardware and software designed at the same time results in a better product. This is even more significant when the system is designed to run a specific high level language. Everything has less bugs.

Heck, Cray machines had ECC memory: SECDED. Single Error Correction, Double Error Detection. They needed it, because memory was not so reliable as today, but now you are lucky to just have a parity bit. All this work is going on, and no one has a clue if there are bad results or not.

As an industry we have gone backwards. That's not an opinion, it's an observation.

Re:Wait... What? (2)

tibit (1762298) | about 4 months ago | (#46662983)

Of course these days all of this can be done, too, much faster, on off-the-shelf hardware. Just because the hardware doesn't have tag bits doesn't mean your compilers can't implement them. I'm running a bit of safety critical code on a bunch of ARM CPUs and all of the data RAM contents are tagged, pointers are tagged, and there is also software-driven error correction for RAM, execution log, restarts, those sorts of things that were en vogue at one point or another in the "hi-rel mainframe" market.

I have a couple of off-the-shelf servers from Dell that not only have error correcting RAM, but also have a spare memory stick and can cope with the failure of an entire chip on a RAM stick [dell.com] . So what you hail so eagerly is - who'd have thought - a standard feature on off-the-shelf hardware that can be had under $2K.

Re:Wait... What? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 4 months ago | (#46663231)

So the quality of a multi-million dollar system of days past, is about the same as your smartphone is.

I was comparing normal multi-use mainframes/mini computers with today's desktops for the most part.

Re:Wait... What? (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 4 months ago | (#46663845)

But that cost $1 million and now it costs $300 to get it almost perfect. Billions of people having $300 computers has revolutionized the world.

Re:Wait... What? (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 4 months ago | (#46670649)

Over twenty years ago there were computers that hardware and software that were designed to work together. At least two of these systems had extra tag bits in memory that defined the memory contents. Specifically I am talking about Symbolics Lisp Machines and Burroughs Large Systems that natively ran Algol.

Or, rather, ran an instruction set with some features oriented towards ALGOL. Other languages could also be, and were, translated to that instruction set.

Oh, just SHUT UP ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46661093)

and continue clicking your stupid colored phone buttons ...

Re:Wait... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660501)

By the end of next week, NASA will release a master catalog of over 1,000 software projects it has conducted over the years and will provide instructions on how the public can obtain copies of the source code.

Instructions? I don't need their damn instructions. Try posting a link instead.

Re:Wait... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660951)

The instructions are for ordering the code in the copies of the original tapes. The public can the rebuilt some copies of the original tape readers to read the copies back. The instructions for obtaining the blueprints for the readers are stored at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, storage facility A15B, bottom level, a Boston Lock & Safe Co's safe, third shelf from the bottom.

Re:Wait... What? (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#46660943)

If COBOL stopped working, you'd lose your back account immediately, and likely the entire worlds financial markets would collapse simultaneously.

Re:Wait... What? (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 4 months ago | (#46661275)

On the upside, you wouldn't be assessed any taxes.

Re:Wait... What? (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46661877)

Yeah sure, like some trifling little issue like global financial collapse would slow down the taxman?

Re:Wait... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46670657)

Silly rabbit. You think just because the financial institutions crumble, and can't calculate your withholding, that means you don't OWE your taxes?

Reminds me of when I was a kid and there were tornado warnings, we'd hope the tornado hit the school because that obviously meant we wouldn't ever have to go to school again!

As Rimmer said on Red Dwarf when he got his old tax bill in the mail, "Just because we're three million years into deep space and the human species is extinct? That means nothing to these people! They'll find us!"

Re:Wait... What? (2)

tibit (1762298) | about 4 months ago | (#46662911)

You're on to something here, but not for the reasons that you think. NASA has been releasing source for a long time. It's only that getting this source requires at least a mountainload of paperwork (U.S. citizens only, etc.), and it's usually costly. It's not like they don't have a catalog already. If it's going to be more of the same, then I'd call it outright deception. Note that nowhere it's stated that the code will be under a free source license!

Gotta get down on Friday with The Golden Girls (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660299)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Re:Gotta get down on Friday with The Golden Girls (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660367)

You dirty little mongoose.

Re:Gotta get down on Friday with The Golden Girls (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660689)

You dirty little mongoose.

"mongoose" is cute but unlike this troll the mongoose fulfills a useful niche in its environment. and one can admire the swiftness and bravery of the mongoose - i mean imagine taking on a venomous snake that is your own size or larger with no ranged weapons! so that is not very fair when you think about it.

this is the one and only case when it's okay to call somebody a nigger.

even if they actually are black.

but i'm pretty sure the culprit is pasty white.

you wanna transform this word and take the hurt out of it, start using it for people like this regardless of skin color. or you can get butthurt that i wrote a word you have been taught to hate. depends if you can think independently i suppose.

source for convolutional error correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660371)

algorithms please.

video games? (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 4 months ago | (#46660663)

flight simulators converted to video games?

Re:video games? (1)

fulldecent (598482) | about 4 months ago | (#46661003)

> flight simulators converted to video games?

Convert?

please don't reinvent wheels (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 4 months ago | (#46660673)

GitLab is a thing [gitlab.com] , if you want your own GitHub stop building it from scratch and just use the real thing.

Re:please don't reinvent wheels (1)

Warbothong (905464) | about 4 months ago | (#46660709)

GitLab is a thing [gitlab.com] , if you want your own GitHub stop building it from scratch and just use the real thing.

Gitorious is a thing [gitorious.org] , if you want your own Gitorious stop building it from scratch and just use the real thing.

Re:please don't reinvent wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46662335)

*cough* [boxuk.com]

Re:please don't reinvent wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46670703)

That article's a year and a half old. Can you recommend a more recent evaluation?

NASA did not release the Apollo 11 Code (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46660685)

I *wish* NASA had released the AGC source code. I run the project providing the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer Code (and other Apollo missions as well) which is linked in the summary, and I can assure you that none of that code was released by NASA, provided by NASA, nor was made available through NASA's assistance. You can thank some dedicated private citizens for the availability of that source code.

-- Ron Burkey

Re:NASA did not release the Apollo 11 Code (2)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about 4 months ago | (#46661629)

Aren't guidance programs for rockets considered a security risk?

Re:NASA did not release the Apollo 11 Code (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46664473)

Aren't guidance programs for rockets considered a security risk?

Perhaps, but the Apollo Guidance Computer that was mentioned in the links didn't guide the rocket (in spite of the name). The AGC was used only in the Command Module and Lunar Modules. The Saturn rocket was controlled by a different computer (the so-called LVDC), for which the source-code is not presently known -- by me, at least -- and therefore is assumed permanently missing. I'd love to be proved wrong (about it being missing), however. At any rate, even if it was a security problem once upon a time, it would have been automatically declassified long ago, so being unavailable *now* has nothing to do with security.

-- Ron Burkey

Re:NASA did not release the Apollo 11 Code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46673751)

Really?

Anthony David

Re:NASA did not release the Apollo 11 Code (1)

Indigo (2453) | about 4 months ago | (#46673829)

Agreed 100%. Ron and his fellow volunteers have worked on this for several years, not only transcribing the Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module flight software from paper listings, but also writing the toolchains and simulators with which to build and run it. And not only for Apollo, but also for the Saturn IB and V rockets, the Gemini spacecraft, and probably other things I haven't found yet. There are lucid explanations of everything, and original project documentation as well. The site is a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in the software aspect of these great historical space missions.
http://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/... [ibiblio.org]

Links? Here's a link for DARPA catalogue. (5, Informative)

fygment (444210) | about 4 months ago | (#46660785)

TFA contains links to Wired articles. Couldn't find a link to a NASA catalogue so TFA is a 'heads up' of what is to come, yes?

Here's the link to the DARPA catalogue: http://www.darpa.mil/OpenCatal... [darpa.mil]

Re:Links? Here's a link for DARPA catalogue. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46663551)

DARPA's catalog contains five (5) programs. Something tells me there are more DARPA projects that have created computer programs in the past two years.

NASA's currenty catalog sucks. (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 4 months ago | (#46665311)

http://code.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]

I gave up on it years ago, when I realized there were only 32 items in it. (2 have been listed as 'coming soon'). You'll find more open source software if you look at the lists that the individual centers maintain :

Or see the NASA Github page (34 items, but that includes 'code.nasa.gov') : https://github.com/nasa [github.com]

The listed 'NASA Official' has changed since it was released ... maybe this one will actually care about maintaining a list, rather than doing the bare minimum to meet some requirement from the White House.

(which was my interepretation of the response I got when I contacted the previous official about http://data.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov] ... of course, back then, it actually linked to places, rather than crap like the content-less http://data.nasa.gov/solar-dat... [nasa.gov] )

Re:NASA's currenty catalog sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46667609)

NASA is terrible at that sort of public relations and always has been. Nasawatch (Keith Cowing) bitches about it all the time. There's eight official pages for some thing and none of them get updated. All of them are probably projects from summer co-ops who managed to make MATLAB serve HTML or some other godawful abortion that a contractor (me) will have to clean up someday.

Doubtful ... due to STRAW (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 4 months ago | (#46678891)

All NASA websites have to be renewed annually in STRAW (System for Tracking and Registering Applications and Websites). If they're not updated, they're supposed to get blocked at the firewall.

Of course, they never define what a 'website' is, so someone could claim that the item in question was a 'web page' that didn't have to be individually registered.

(I made the mistake of listing a webservice as a 'web application', and had much back & forth as I said there weren't any privacy issues ... of course, their definition was that a 'web application' is something that you give logins & passwords to.)

But my complaint was that the 'official' page is that there are other pages out there that are *not* trying to be comprehensive that are doing a better job than the 'official' page. I had contacted the NASA official responsible for data.nasa.gov, and asked him how they had sent out the call for information to put in there ... he said they didn't, they just added websites they found. I told him they'd be more complete if they just linked to the GCMD as their system hardly had anything in it. I also complained about how stuff was organized (not by mission, or investigation ... but by the websites they found ... never mind that a given archive might have hundreds of different heterogeneous datasets.)

And I seriously doubt that the projects are what you claim -- as someone who's tried to push some NASA-funded software to CPAN ... after a while, we gave up as the legal department made it such a burden to do so. (admitedly, this was ~8 years ago).

Moon Landings? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#46662557)

That would be very interesting.

It all in FORTRAN (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#46662601)

What little that is not FORTRAN is in PL-1 There are a few assembly language code using fixed point arithmetic. And the only comment in the entire code base is # RIP JSB

Won't last for long (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 4 months ago | (#46663309)

I predict that some military-general-turned-politician will start complaining about national security risks and taxpayer money being wasted (on something other than the military) and the project will suddenly find itself behind a security-clearance-only paywall.

Releases (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 4 months ago | (#46663879)

So, can we figure out why that Mars mission failed? And if so, maybe we should release the code ahead of time so people can help look for bugs.

Space Shuttle source code... (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 4 months ago | (#46666125)

It would be very cool to see the source code for the Space Shuttle. Its retired now so releasing it shouldn't have any operational impacts on the shuttle itself and I doubt the Chinese or the North Koreans or the Iranians are interested in building their own shuttle (and certainly not one using a hardware architecture developed in the 1970s reverse engineered from a source code release)

Did that include Voyagers command software? (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 4 months ago | (#46666193)

Did that include Voyagers command software?

After all, VGER's command and communication software could be essential.

China says thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46673953)

As a Chinese person, I thank all Americans for their taxes that made all this R&D possible. And thanks to US goverment for sharing source codes. This will help us a lot. In China we would never turn over these assets open source to other countries' citizens. US is still great country.
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