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To Infinity And Beyond – Using Open Data to Create Space Apps.

Sol is the world’s first interplanetary weather app, it integrates weather data from the Curiosity rover on Mars with weather data from here on Earth. The app was developed by Ingenology for the NASA Space App Challenge.

Mike Wilson is the President of Ingenology. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the app is named after the date on Mars, Sol.

What is Sol?

“It is the first interplanetary weather app. We came up with this solution because we knew we could create this great weather app from Earth and pair that with information from Mars. We dug through data that NASA and other agencies had curated from data coming from the Curiosity Rover on Mars. What is even more empowering than the actual app we created was the API we published. The Mars Atmospheric Aggregation System (MAAS) API is based on data we found and put into an easy to use format that people could use to build new mobile apps,” said Wilson.

Educational Tool

“Sol is just a representation of what you can build with all this data. We wanted to educate people and make them look at the information on Mars and have them say, ‘Wow I didn’t know that.’ For example did you know that the temperature on Mars fluctuates between -70 degrees and 30 degrees? We wanted to educate people from a science standpoint but we also wanted to educate people on the data we were using and show them how easy it was to go build apps with the open data,” said Wilson.

2013 NASA Apps Space Challenge

“We actually stumbled upon the challenge on Linkedin. We messaged one of the leads, they said they were full, but a few weeks later we got a call from one of the organizers who was a big fan of Kansas City and wanted to give us a chance. We took it as a chance to prove what we could do as a city from a talent standpoint,” said Wilson.

Working For the Government

“It’s odd you don’t normally think about hackathons from government organizations. But as a geek and a nerd there is an appeal to work on an app for space. It was a really organized event. It was the first time i’ve seen a government organization reach out in mass to the public and say build what you want, we are not going to put restrictions on you, and on top of it we will give you access to as much data as possible. It was an open environment to build what you want,” said Wilson.

No Bureaucracy

“As a standard citizen of the United States your natural tendency is to lean towards working with the government will be a pain. But I was surprised at how quickly we got to the data. We also needed scientists to validate what we were doing. We didn’t know what Sol was and we got into the data and started reaching out to scientists. I probably talked with two dozen people within NASA in two days. Everybody I reached out to either talked to me directly or said they knew someone who was a better fit to answer questions. There was very little bureaucracy and it was very open,” said Wilson.

Make It Open

“There was a lot of encouragement from NASA to make whatever we doing public. We knew we weren’t going to sell the API and that it should be open to the public. We only had one idea about what to do with the data, but I am sure someone else will have an even better idea,” said Wilson.

See Ingenology’s Video Explaining Sol:

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