1D, 2D, 3D, Go!

    The Challenge

    Create and deploy web apps that will enable anyone to explore Earth from orbit! Visualize Earth science satellites and mission data using interactive virtual globes, such as NASA’s Web WorldWind. Use data sets from NASA’s Open Data Portal to present fire, ice, clouds, meteorites, or water temperature spectra.


    Web apps are amazing tools to engage and educate people about Earth through visualization of science data and the science satellites that orbit the Earth. Think of data files as one-dimensional (1D). This challenge invites the data scientist in you to create web apps that convert sets of two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) coordinates into 1D data files that can be displayed on virtual world maps and globes.

    Programming beginners are invited to create web apps that present 2D imagery using web-based scripting and block-based programming environments. Intermediate and advanced programmers are invited to integrate data sources with virtual globes and web-based programming environments.

    Ideas for potential web apps include but are not limited to:

    • Conversion utilities
    • Trajectory visualization of orbiting satellites
    • Mobile phone apps of Earth science data imagery
    • Reusable code to access data from virtual globes
    • Integrating virtual globes with web-based programming environments

    Mission analysis applications can generate 2D or 3D coordinates in Comma Separated Value (CSV) format. Potential conversion utilities could, for example, transform the CSV data into JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) or GeoJSON for presentation on a virtual globe. Earth science 2D images could be imported to web-based programming environments such as Scratch. Several NASA data sets are in formats that could be imported into virtual globes. Integrating a virtual globe with Scratch via JavaScript could help students to use virtual globes. Design your web apps to engage the general public, especially teachers and students!

    Potential Considerations

    • Free virtual globes provide functions to import Earth science data
    • Free code libraries and web-based programming environments enable presentations of 2D images and 3D data visualizations
    • Free mission analysis tools enable the generation of trajectory coordinates.
      Free repositories and web app hosting platforms enable collaborative development and deployment of web apps that present Earth science imagery and visualization of trajectories

    The Example Resource Descriptions section provides links to demonstrations, tutorials, virtual globes, code libraries, and mission analysis applications.

    Many projects and previous Space Apps Challenge products are available on an open source code repository. A few code repositories offer free web page hosting; thus, projects can provide their source code and host a web page with the embedded web app within the same repository. Then you will be able to embed or link to the app from your project page.

    Source code and models for interactive 3D web apps should be free for reuse. Additionally, a good solution would be one that is well commented and documented, and demonstrated via a working web app embedded in a web page. Code and models ideally might be written so that they can be adapted and reused by citizen scientists interested in designing their own space missions.

    Examples of Resources

    The Web Mission Visualization Tutorial series provides tutorials and demos on how to use NASA’s GMAT and JavaScript to create interactive 3D web apps that depict space missions.

    The Inner Solar System is a JavaScript web app that includes an orbital propagator.

    The Elliptical Orbit Design is a tutorial that explains how to implement a relatively simple orbital propagator that enables animation of visualizations.

    NASA 3D Resources is a great place to find models of satellites that can orbit a virtual Earth globe: 3D Models

    NASA’s Open Data portal – An excellent starting point for finding data sets, reusable code, and Application Programming Interfaces:

    NASA data sets suitable for importing into virtual globes:

    NASA Web Worldwind:

    Space Mission Planning Applications

    Mission planning applications can generate trajectory coordinate data that can be visualized via 3D code libraries and virtual globes.

    NASA’s General Mission Analysis Tool (GMAT)

    Suggested keywords for online resource searches:

    • Orbital propagator and JavaScript
    • 3D graphics code libraries
    • Keplerian parameters
    • Two Line Element sets or TLE resources
    • Current NORAD Two Line Element sets
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    SpaceApps is a NASA incubator innovation program.