JBuilder helps to move Mars Rover portal

JBuilder, the Java IDE from Borland Software Corp., was used to develop the Collaborative Information Portal (CIP) that is handling data downloads from the Mars Exploration Rover mission.

JBuilder was selected by NASA to develop the portal because the Borland IDE supports all the required Java and Web services standards, said George Paolini, vice president and general manager of the Borland Java business unit. Officials also noted that NASA's Java development team is familiar with JBuilder, having used it for previous projects.

The space agency's developers are committed to using Enterprise JavaBeans and Web services technology on BEA's WebLogic J2EE application server, Paolini told This Week in Java.

"What they needed was the capability to rapidly build a portal environment to be a central holding place for all the data coming in from the two rovers," Paolini said. "They obviously wanted it to be built in an open environment that was fully scalable. They wanted full Java, Web service and Web application capability."

The portal is used in downloading data and photographs from the twin NASA rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, now exploring Martian geology, he explained. The portal is also employed for Earth-bound tasks critical to NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., such as coordinating schedules between Earth and Martian time zones.

Developing scheduling software to keep track of time in Pasadena and on the Red Planet is a challenge, Paolini said, because a day on Mars is 24 hours and 39 minutes long.

"Probably one of the biggest challenges the NASA developers had was on the event scheduling where there's a difference between Mars time and Earth time," he said. To adapt to the time difference, NASA scientists at JPL sleep and eat in rooms with the sunlight blocked out so they can live on Martian time, he added.

But while the NASA portal deals with extraterrestrial issues, Paolini said the challenges developers face are similar to those in any corporate Java development shop.

"The challenge that they were faced with is not all that different from the challenges any large global company has today," he said, "which is how to rapidly collect and distribute salient information among a group of employees and have them be able to review and act on that information. That's what we were able to help them [the NASA development team] do."

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About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.


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