How Scientists Tackle NASA's Big Data Deluge

Megan Gannon | | January 18, 2014

Every hour, NASA's missions collectively compile hundreds of terabytes of information, which, if printed out in hard copies, would take up the equivalent of tens of millions of trees worth of paper.

This deluge of material poses some big data challenges for the space agency. But a team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., is coming up with new strategies to tackle problems of information storage, processing and access so that researchers can harness gargantuan amounts data that would impossible for humans to parse through by hand.

"Scientists use big data for everything from predicting weather on Earth to monitoring ice caps on Mars to searching for distant galaxies," JPL's Eric De Jong said in a statement. Jong is the principal investigator for one of NASA's big data programs, the Solar System Visualization project, which aims to convert the scientific information gathered in missions into graphics that researchers can use.