I have always been a big fan of Google Earth. Like I had been blogging in the past, I noted that that I am aspiring to be a space tourist when I can afford it but for now that I can even hardly afford to have vacation in another country, I am sticking to Google Earth to give me a view of the world without moving my butt.
And then I came across World Wind which is an open source software developed by the National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA). This software is similar to Google Earth where one can zoom from satellite view into any spot on the planet.
Although Google Earth and World Wind are not really in competition as they have their unique features and they complement each other in some ways, what excites me about World Wind is that it is available as a Java applet which can be easily integrated into my website and other application I might develop. World Wind uses data from Shuttle Radar Topology Mission (SRTM) as well as Landsat satellite images to deliver good images and dramatic views. World Wind also has modules and components for viewing other planets in the universe and also the moon.
In Java, one can make outputs either as application of applet for web content delivery. Word Wind for application can be as simple as including several packages like the following as listed on the official website of Java.
gov.nasa.worldwind - The top-level world wind package.
gov.nasa.worldwind.awt - Classes specific to use with Abstract Window Toolkit
gov.nasa.worldwind.formats.gpx and gov.nasa.worldwind.formats.nmea -- Both are classes specific to GPS track formats.
gov.nasa.worldwind.geom - Geometry and math classes.
gov.nasa.worldwind.globes - Globes with earth, Mars, and so forth.
gov.nasa.worldwind.layers - Imagery and other data to display on globes.
gov.nasa.worldwind.layers.Earth - Layers specific to earth.
Embedding World Wind in webpages is even easier by using Java applet through the Java APIs for OpenGL applet launcher. A few lines of code, with no programming needed, will set a website complete with the online version of World Wind.
These are all welcome development. Already there are also many webpages employing GIS data and these may complement well with World Wind. World Wind is aggressively pursuing on integrating more data on stars and planets and moons as well as the weather and time series. Some efficient components which are on the way include animation player, layer manager and other drag and drop components. Also, World Wind will include support for RSS speed and API extensions for scripting.
For sure, websites powered by maps, graphs and images like these are useful from grade school research to top science projects to simple hobbyists. The world is indeed shrinking and we are more and more in control of this planet more than ever.
I hope these technologies will bring out rehabilitation of the resources that we have worked havoc upon the planet in the last few years when other technologies have consumed man. I am certainly positive that these will.