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1/4/2012
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NASA Promotes Open Source With New Website

Code.nasa.gov will showcase the agency's open-source projects and invite public engagement.

NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space
NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
NASA has added a new website and public forum to a growing list of efforts dedicated to the agency's open-source strategy.

Through code.nasa.gov, the agency plans to "continue, unify and expand" its open-source activities by posting information about and providing an online hub for its open-source activities, according to a blog post by William Eshagh of NASA's Ames Research Center.

The site also will engage the public as a guideline for internal and external groups that want to work with NASA in open development and possibly contribute to projects, he said.

NASA anticipates rolling out the site in three phases, Eshagh said. The first phase will provide "a home for the current state of open source" at NASA, including points of contact and a directory of existing projects, he said.

[ Read about the White House's open data efforts in White House Begins Open Sourcing Data.gov. ]

"By elucidating the process, we hope to lower the barriers to building open technology in partnership with the public," Eshagh said.

A second phase of the site will provide a discussion forum for NASA's open-source concepts, policies, and projects, creating more of a community atmosphere. In phase three the agency will take a didactic approach, according to Eshagh.

That phase will provide tools and mechanisms that projects need to be successful, such as distributed version control, issue tracking, continuous integration, documentation, and planning management, he said. NASA also plans to create and host a tool, service, and process chain during phase three to help facilitate internal and external open-source projects.

"Ultimately, our goal is to create a highly visible community hub that will imbue open concepts into the formulation stages of new hardware and software projects, and help existing projects transition to open modes of development and operation," Eshagh said. "We believe that tomorrow's space and science systems will be built in the open, and that code.nasa.gov will play a big part in getting us there."

The code.nasa.gov site is part of a larger site devoted to NASA's open government efforts, http://open.nasa.gov, that itself was built on open-source technologies.

Indeed, NASA undeniably has been one of the government agencies at the forefront of pushing open source as a development model and platform, as well as participating in the community around the technology.

NASA contributed code from its Nebula cloud-computing platform to the OpenStack open-source cloud project. NASA also received full support from the Apache Software Foundation for an agency-led middleware project called Object Oriented Data Technology (OODT), originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In March, NASA hosted its first open-source summit.

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