Web as an Inspiration and Platform for Mission Operations

Design & UX, Government 2.0
Location: 1A24 Level:

Mission operations often conjures an image of many people gathered together in room in front of large terminal computers. Modern long term missions operations, however, are carried out by a distributed team (often in multiple countries) on commodity hardware, such as off-the-shelf laptops. Users have come to expect powerful software, intuitive interfaces and anywhere access to both uplink and downlink information. Recently the Operations Planning Software (OPS) Lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has turned to the World Wide Web as both a platform and inspiration for developing such software for NASA missions.

In this talk, I discuss the new scientific search interface for mission data currently under development for the Mars Science Laboratory, a rover mission scheduled for launch in 2011. While this is desktop software (written in Java), it borrows many of the metaphors and paradigms that are well established for browser based programs. The comfort and familiarity of the design allows the scientists to create complicated search queries without the software “getting in the way.” Additionally I will discuss other mission operations software that is currently under development for browser based deployment, including the unique challenges that we have faced in this area and how we have over come it.

Photo of Allan Holmes

Allan Holmes


Allan Holmes is Executive Editor at Government Executive, joining Executive Editors Tom Shoop and Anne Laurent in the senior management of the enterprise. Holmes has been CIO’s Washington Bureau Chief since 2004.
He was editor in chief of Federal Computer Week magazine and FCW.com from January 2001 to August 2003, and FCW editor and managing editor prior to that. He developed, launched and managed the award-winning daily news site, FCW.com. During his nearly nine years at FCW, the magazine and web site won more than three dozen awards, including Folio Magazine’s Best Government Publication and first-place awards from the American Society of Business Press Editors for Best Government Coverage and Best Overall Web Publication.
Holmes also served as editorial director for events and new projects at FCW Media Group. This included running FCW’s Government CIO Summit, and managing research projects that measure the effectiveness of government management reforms, governance issues, the interaction between electronic government and the public, and other topics. In an earlier project, he oversaw an expansive joint study with the Pew Internet and American Life Project on the federal government’s increasing use of the Internet to sell goods and services to the public. Holmes has covered health care, business issues and state government, and has written for The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and Government Executive. He has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University.

Michael Wallick

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Michael is a developer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he works on operations software for surface and orbiting missions on Mars, as well as Earth science missions. His primary work is developing a mission data search system inspired by Web 2.0 paradigms.

Michael received a B.S. in Computer Science (with Honors) from the University of Central Florida in 2001. He earned a Masters and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003 and 2007 respectively. He was named a Microsoft Graduate Research Fellow in 2004.

  • IBM
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  • Awareness
  • Blue Kiwi Software
  • Ericsson Labs
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  • Layered Technologies, Inc.
  • Neustar, Inc.
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  • Sony Ericsson

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