Drupal goes to Mars, or rather, Drupal helps us go to Mars ... eventually. NASA's Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University is doing a lot of advanced work with Drupal. They have a number of Drupal sites, each with a different purpose, but all used to share information about Mars as discovered by ASU's THEMIS camera on the Mars Odyssey orbiter. All of the sites have some interesting integrations with other software, including LDAP, legacy authentication systems, Java Servlet based web services, Flash, Java desktop clients, map servers or Google Earth.
Their main portal, http://themis.asu.edu, features news, images and articles about THEMIS and the Odyssey mission. Another Drupal site, http://viewer.mars.asu.edu offers a search portal for millions of images and data from eight instruments on Mars orbiters. It uses Drupal and jQuery as the interface to a Java Servlet backend database and integrates "Deep Zoom" style image viewers.
Ever wanted to help explore Mars? No problem, http://suggest.mars.asu.edu is for you. On this Drupal site you can suggest places on Mars for scientists to photograph with the THEMIS camera aboard Mars Odyssey. The site shows you where Odyssey will be orbiting in the next week, and it integrates with Google Earth's desktop application and the Google Earth browser plugin to let you zoom around mars and choose a place to suggest. After it made the suggested photographs, it will send you an e-mail with a link, where you might be the first human to see that particular spot on mars in such detail. If that makes your inner geek jump up and down, make sure to read their technical write-up. Cool stuff!
— Dries Buytaert
Dries Buytaert is an Open Source advocate and technology executive. More than 10,000 people are subscribed to his blog. Sign up to have new posts emailed to you or subscribe using RSS. Write to Dries Buytaert at firstname.lastname@example.org.