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Sally Ride EarthKAM — Automated Image Geo-Referencing Using Google Earth Web Plug-In

Sally Ride EarthKAM is an educational program funded by NASA that aims to provide the public the ability to picture Earth from the perspective of the International Space Station (ISS). A computer-controlled camera is mounted on the ISS in a nadir-pointing window; however, timing limitations in the system cause inaccurate positional metadata. Manually correcting images within an orbit allows the positional metadata to be improved using mathematical regressions. The manual correction process is time-consuming and thus, unfeasible for a large number of images.

The standard Google Earth program allows for the importing of KML (keyhole markup language) files that previously were created. These KML file-based overlays could then be manually manipulated as image overlays, saved, and then uploaded to the project server where they are parsed and the metadata in the database is updated. The new interface eliminates the need to save, download, open, re-save, and upload the KML files. Everything is processed on the Web, and all manipulations go directly into the database. Administrators also have the control to discard any single correction that was made and validate a correction.

This program streamlines a process that previously required several critical steps and was probably too complex for the average user to complete successfully. The new process is theoretically simple enough for members of the public to make use of and contribute to the success of the Sally Ride EarthKAM project.

Using the Google Earth Web plug-in, EarthKAM images, and associated metadata, this software allows users to interactively manipulate an EarthKAM image overlay, and update and improve the associated metadata. The Web interface uses the Google Earth JavaScript API along with PHP-PostgreSQL to present the user the same interface capabilities without leaving the Web. The simpler graphical user interface will allow the public to participate directly and meaningfully with EarthKAM. The use of similar techniques is being investigated to place ground-based observations in a Google Mars environment, allowing the MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) Science Team a means to visualize the rover and its environment.

This work was done by Paul M. Andres of Caltech, Dennis K. Lazar of Purdue University, and Robert Q. Thames of Loyola Marymount University for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Dan Broderick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-48800

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Sally Ride EarthKAM — Automated Image Geo-Referencing Using Google Earth Web Plug-In (reference NPO-48800) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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