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10/21/2011
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NASA Seeks New Apps With Open Data API

Space agency releases data in nine categories and hopes developers will generate new and creative visualizations of the information.

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NASA has released an API for its recently launched open data site, allowing developers to take data sets from the site and reuse them in new applications.

The space agency launched data.nasa.gov in August, a vast collection of digitized data of its observations of earth, other planets in the solar system from satellites, telescopes, robots and astronaut cameras.

The repository was part of the rollout of an open government site the space agency launched to highlight the ways it is leveraging transparency, participation, and collaboration as part of the Open Government Directive.

Documentation for the new open-data API is now freely available online on the site. The agency said it hopes to learn from other developers so it can improve its use of new technology.

"The data.nasa.gov API allows a machine-readable interface to return metadata from the site organized by category, tag, date, or search term," NASA said on the site. "We're hoping this allows new and creative visualizations of the data resources NASA provides to the public."

Data that developers can now access and reuse on the site is grouped into nine categories: aeronautics, earth science, space science, life science, climate, engineering, operations institutional and catalogs.

NASA is seeking public comment on how it can improve both its open data site and the API for sharing data.

The federal government under the Obama administration launched a broad open-data transparency effort to give people public access to government data. As part of that, the feds launched an aggregate data repository for government data form all agencies, Data.gov, in May 2009. The site now offers more than 390,000 data sets and has evolved from its inception from a repository to more of a cloud-based platform for new applications and services.

Developers already have built more than 1,000 applications leveraging data on Data.gov using APIs to access data on that site.

NASA contributed three data sets and 18 other tools, widgets and catalogs to Data.gov last year, but launched its own site because of the significant amount of data the agency had to share.

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