About the "Public Connection" Project
"Earth views of Space and Space views of Earth"

An Outreach of Rice University
In partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science

We have created the "Public Connection" in collaboration with the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS), by developing interactive real-time displays of real-time earth and space science data. The "Space Update" software has now been fully field-tested by over 800,000 visitors and is available for purchase for display at museums and schools! The all-new "Earth Update" software is also ready for sale. This project was initially funded by NASA/Goddard's Digital Library Technology Project and is now part of the Learning Technologies Program. "Earth Update" is funded by NASA's Office of Earth Science.
Our logo, a 6-pointed star, is created from interlocking triangles. The silver triangle symbolizes observing space from the Earth (the bottom point is man with two upward arms reaching to the solar system on the left and the galaxy and beyond on the right). The blue triangle symbolizes observing Earth from space (the top point is a spacecraft viewing down to observe the curved Earth below). The former symbolizes our "Space Update" software - the second, our "Earth Update" software.

Visitors to "Space Update" in the Museum Grand Entry Hall

The explosion of net-accessible images and data has unfortunately resulted in two classes of people: the "information elite" who have unlimited free access through their schools or workplaces, or who can afford such access from home; and the "information illiterates" who do not have the hardware or software to tie into the "information superhighway". This projects builds a very important "offramp" so that museum visitors and school children can access these wonderful sources of information with no special training - everything is "point and click". Modules include quicktime movies, images, and sound, all with very rapid, user-chosen, access. All modules have imagery updated automatically in the background so that an up-to-date image is always immediately available to the visitor. (A web-based system is too slow and confusing for the average visitor, and allows access to inappropriate material; our modules need no attendant). Both "museum versions" and "school versions" of the software have been developed. Both Mac and PC platforms are supported in the school version (all development is being done on Macs because of ease of programming and powerful multimedia tools). Special Museum versions of the software (Mac only) have two screens, to allow many users at once, or to allow the second screen to be projected on a video projector.

The software not only presents archival images (such as images from planetary encounters), it focuses on newly released imagery (Comets, Hubble Space Telescope, Mars Pathfinder & Surveyor). In addition, the modules display automatically-updated imagery, such as hourly weather maps and satellite weather photos and daily images of the Sun at various wavelengths of light from ground-based observatories. One module characterizes the daily space weather by presenting real-time information on the hazards of space from programs run at Rice University, based on real-time data from ground-based and space-based observatories.


Three computer-based interactive kiosks opened to the public July 20, 1995. They are: EARTH TODAY, SPACE WEATHER, and HOUSTON TODAY.

EARTH TODAY highlights Earth resources and Earth weather. Weather maps and satellite weather images are updated hourly. Hurricane tracking charts are updated several times daily in hurricane season. Other imagery, such as bioactivity maps and sea temperature maps, are updated as available.

SPACE WEATHER includes real-time predictions of space weather from various online sources; images of the sun from the Solar Data Analysis Center , auroral forecasts from the University of Alaska Poker Flat Research Program and other real-time information on the hazards of space.

HOUSTON TODAY highlighted the Houston area, showing weather graphs and maps from the "WeatherNet2" school-based system of local AWS weather stations (affilliated with KPRC-TV). One of the weather stations is located at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. This software has now been superseded by the "Earth Update" software and the web-based access to weather data from AWS.


Labelled with ICRA

The "Public Connection": is an outreach arm of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University in collaboration with the Houston Museum of Natural Science [ Project Director: Patricia Reiff ].
This project is funded by NASA as part of the Earth Science Information Partners.
The project was originally part of NASA/Goddard's Digital Library Technology Project, and now is part of the Learning Technologies Program.

ACCESSED BY connect@space.rice.edu UPDATED: 11-06-02