The Phoenix Mars landing is tonight (Sunday), you can Watch NASA TV starting at 6:00 PM EST. You can expect live commentary to start around 6:30 PM EST.
If you want to follow along and watch the landing, there is an interesting program called Mars24 Sunclock, which is available from NASA. This Mars24 Java application is bundled as an application for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux. I was able to download and start it without knowing I was dealing with a Java application, and it is a pretty impressive piece of GIS software for the Martian environment.
Here’s a picture of the Phoenix landing site from Mars24:
I downloaded it, and unpacked it to see what it uses. Read more…
The application has an interesting count-down clock.
Lastly, to illustrate the importance of this mission, this is the map of Mars in a Winkel Tripel projection. You can see from this shot just how close Phoenix is going to be to the interesting part of Mars: the Water.
Unpacking the Mars24.jar
Ok, so, I wanted to see what was up with this app. What is NASA using? I found a JAR file at Mars24OSX/Mars24.app/Contents/Resources/Java/Mars24.jar (I’m on a Mac). And, I unpacked it. Here are some interesting things I found:
- They’ve left some itext Ant build in the JAR
- Looks like they are using a few third party libraries, but for the most part, this thing is homegrown code. They are using:
- JDOM to parse XML
- Some Image Library from Jerry Huxtable
- iText for PDF support?
- A bunch of classes under the net.schmunk package. Looks like a wide array of things. I searched for this, I don’t think this is an open source project. Likely a collection of custom tools written by a vendor? (searching….) Nope, this code is likely written by one of the main contributors: Dr. Robert Schmunk.
- A few interesting resources in Mars24OSX/Mars24.app/Contents/Resources/Java/gov/nasa/giss/mars24/resources (after you unpack Mars24.jar). There’s a marslandmarks.xml not much else.
- Whatever build system they have is just combining a bunch of JARs into this uberjar. META-INF/LICENSE.txt is the license for JDOM. (Effectively Brett McLaughlin and Jason Hunter are the copyright owners of Mars24, eh?)
I would like to decompile this sucker. It looks like the government has spent our money producing some really interesting GIS classes. Lot’s of stuff to do with mapping and projections. They’ve got a PlanetTime, EarthTime, TitanTime, and MarsTime. Goddard has some potential gems here, but from the looks of the license (and it is confusing one), I’m not sure if decompiling the code and publishing the results of my survey here would summon the “G men” to my front door. It is covered under a screwy license it is “not freeware”, but it grants the user unlimited rights to reverse engineer and distribute.