Java - to Mars and beyond!
Dinner last night was an excellent opportunity to meet Ronald Mak, a researcher at NASA Ames who is respoonsible for the middleware powering the information feeds used by Mars Probe scientists. You may remember seeing the way NASA was using Java at past JavaOne conferences, but it's really come a long way since then. Mars Probe scientists and engineers have a powerful Java client application called CIP (Collaborative Information Portal) that displays images, data, schedules, reports and the rest of the information needed to run the Mars Exploration Rover (MER).
Ronald told me that the diversity of the client environments - Windows, Mac, Unix (including Solaris and Linux) and more - means Java is the only way they could even imagine providing CIP to the MER team. His personal responsibility is the web application server that powers CIP, and he's used all the power of J2EE (including the new Web services support) to make it happen. Java is also in wide use in the R & D areas at Ames, including modelling and simulation.
So when the weather finally allows it, MER will be one of the most exciting Java input devices around. I wish them luck with their mission!