Going to Mars With Amazon Web Services

Curtis Chen
Aug. 10 2012, 09:00AM EDT

Obviously, it takes a lot of technology and engineering to land a robot on Mars. But what kind of computing power does it take to broadcast the show, live, to audiences all over planet Earth? As described in a new case study, NASA/JPL took advantage of Amazon Web Services (AWS) to augment their non-interplanetary mission capabilities.

When people around the world watched the latest Mars rover, Curiosity, land on August 5th, they were being served live video through the use of multiple AWS offerings, including the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) with an nginx caching tier, Route 53 for DNS management, and CloudFront for content delivery to different geographies.  As reported in the AWS case study:

In just a few weeks, NASA/JPL was able to design, build, test, and deploy their web hosting and live video streaming solutions... Shortly before the landing, NASA/JPL provisioned stacks of AWS infrastructure, each capable of handling 25 Gbps of traffic. NASA/JPL used Amazon CloudWatch to monitor spikes in traffic volume and provision additional capacity based on regional demand. As traffic volumes returned to normal hours after the landing, NASA/JPL used AWS CloudFormation to de-provision resources using a single command.

But wait, there's more!  Now that Curiosity is exploring the surface of the Red Planet, the mission is using different AWS components to help with stereoscopic image processing and more.  A separate Amazon Simple Workflow (SWF) case study details how "orchestration in the cloud" and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) are being used to reliably run parallel tasks.

You can find more technical details in those case studies at http://aws.amazon.com.  And if it's good enough for NASA, it's probably good enough for your project--whether or not it involves space travel.

(Hat tip: AWS Blog)


Curtis Chen Once a software engineer in Silicon Valley; now a science fiction writer and puzzle hunt maker near Portland, Oregon. You may have seen his "Cat Feeding Robot" Ignite presentation. Curtis is not an aardvark.

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