While this is cool and I don't doubt that there are a good number of people who will thrill at the experience of taking a virtual flight over the surface of the moon or through the canyons on Mars (as NASA administrator Michael Griffin enthused in the press release), this was only a small part of the announcement.
A closer review of the announcement reveals that the pair is planning to work together on some very practical and mutually beneficial projects. For instance, Google will gain access to NASA's enormous data sets, including scientific and historical data and aerial imagery, that could help both scientists and citizens better understand the effect of global climate change. The pair also plans to work together in the areas of massively distributed computing and weather visualization and forecasting.
This latter development is noteworthy because just last week IBM
The memorandum-of-understanding also provides Google the right to develop 1 million square feet within the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field. I mention this only because it tells me that whatever the two organizations are planning won't be limited to a couple of very smart scientists swapping information -- they're thinking big.
To this end, the project that personally caught my attention was news that the two organizations were going to work together on bio-nano-info convergence. Such a project might sound innocuous, but the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information technology (which goes by the acronym NBIC) has the potential to create some products that might seem ripped straight from the pages of a science fiction novel -- such as self-healing space suits, solar cells that can be painted on walls, and self-assembling computer circuits orders of magnitude smaller but more powerful than anything on the market today.
So while I believe the Google-NASA partnership will begin paying dividends to both organizations in the short term in the areas of large-scale data management, supercomputing, and weather forecasting, I would encourage Google investors to be on the lookout for NBIC-related news -- if for no other reason than some of these developments could lead to some exciting future business opportunities that might be both literally and figuratively out of this world.
Interested in other Google-related Foolishness?
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich isn't sure if he boldly wants to go where no man has gone before, but he probably wouldn't mind visiting some of these places via Google Earth (or Google Universe). He does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Fed-Ex is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool has a strictdisclosure policy.