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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 10:22 GMT
Nasa and Google's cosmic union
Eric Schmidt
The agreement will make Nasa's data available to everyone
Detailed 3D images of the Moon and Mars will soon be just a click away for web users, following a deal between search giant Google and US space agency Nasa.

The Space Agreement Act, signed on Monday, will put "the most useful of Nasa's information on the internet".

Real-time weather data and the positions of the International Space Station and shuttle could be included.

The deal will also see scientists from both institutions working together to solve complex computational problems.

"This agreement between Nasa and Google will soon allow every American to experience a virtual flight over the surface of the moon or through the canyons of Mars," said Nasa administrator Michael Griffin.

The deal will make "Nasa's space exploration work accessible to everyone," he added.

Public resource

The deal formalises a partnership started last year when Google agreed to build a research centre at the Nasa Ames Research Center.

Nasa has collected and processed more information about our planet and universe than any other entity in the history of humanity
Chris Kemp, Nasa Ames

The two organisations said they will now collaborate in a variety of areas including adding data collected by Nasa to the online mapping tool Google Earth.

Other projects could include finding new ways for humans to interact with computers as well as utilising Google's expertise to accelerate the process of searching the massive amounts of data collected by the space agency every year.

"Nasa has collected and processed more information about our planet and universe than any other entity in the history of humanity," said Chris Kemp, director of strategic business development at Ames.

"Even though this information was collected for the benefit of everyone, and much is in the public domain, the vast majority of this information is scattered and difficult for non-experts to access and to understand."

The internet's leading search engine already provides some Nasa data through programs such as Google Mars, an interactive map that allows users to explore maps of the red planet's surface.

Another service, Google Moon, lets users view the sites of moon landings.

The two organisations said they are now finalising a series of new collaborations including "products, facilities, education and missions".

"We're pleased to move forward to collaborate on a variety of technical challenges through the signing of the Space Act Agreement," said Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Google.

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