The coolest piece of software ever

And it’s not Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. NASA’s Learning Technologies division have written an application that takes Landsat and other satellite photos, overlays them on height data from the Space Shuttle’s radar height mapping mission, and turns it into a fully interactive 3D world globe. Pan, zoom, tilt, you name it, WorldWind does it. Warning: the application itself is a 250MB download. Also, you need at least a DSL-speed internet connection - because the high-resolution data is stored on NASA’s servers, rather than downloaded with the program. (Found via Eric Gunnarson’s blog, at Microsoft Weblogs.)

The application is built in C#, with DirectX doing all of the heavy 3D lifting. Apparently, it will run on a Geforce 2 Ultra or an Intel Extreme Graphics 2, but somehow I don’t think my poor little laptop would be able to cope with all of that glorious 3D goodness. If ever there was an excuse to upgrade my desktop’s graphics card, this is it. And don’t worry, Linux nazis, they’re planning to port it.