david milberg nasa

No One Does Data Quite like NASA

When it comes to cutting-edge science, NASA wrote the book and sets the pace. Now the space agency is betting on Big Data to take their research and development into science fiction territory.

NASA & Big Data

NASA recently announced it will use Big Data programs and applications to plan and execute the actions of the Curiosity rover, the Mars rover that landed on the red planet back in 2012. NASA is working to explore the planet in preparation for a follow-up mission, scheduled for 2020, which will have as its primary mission finding evidence of ancient life on Mars. The equipment and tech for this mission are being developed with Big Data applications built right in.

Four daily data dumps, totaling tens of thousands of data points each day are already being fed into the system. Information captured and cataloged includes every reading taken by Curiosity’s sensors ranging from weather and terrain data to photos and reports on the condition of the rover’s equipment and movements. A lot of actions. A lot of variables. Perfect for Big Data programs.

What Can the Data Reveal?

One primary focus for this data collection is finding patterns of anomalies in data sets, which can be found much more quickly using specific data science applications. Knowing what may happen ahead of time, and being able to understand and predict anomalies is vital to the success of this as well as future missions.

Another focus is resolving problems or potential issues before they come up. Remember the Apollo 13 mission? That mission had to be scrubbed in flight, keeping the astronauts away from the moon, but ultimately saving their lives with quick thinking and incredible innovation when the clock had already ticked down to zero.

Now, imagine the potential problems that could happen on a Mars mission. What if there isn’t time to solve them? Big Data research allows NASA to come up with potential issues – and solutions to those issues – long before they ever happen. There’s no way to account for every potential problem or challenge, but Big Data’s predictive ability can cover a lot more ground than people in a stressful situation trying to save their friends’ lives.

Practical Implications of NASA’s New Endeavor

One of the applications for data science is to predict problems with the spacecraft, “remember” when that last occurred and why, and what could be done about it. Combining this cataloged data with predictive analysis will allow NASA to cover many more “real world” scenarios than they could in a simulator, thus being better prepared to explore and conquer space than the agency ever has before.

David Milberg is a financial expert in NYC.

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