This weekend, several of the core Cesium developers attended the 2013 NASA International Space Apps Challenge in Philadelphia, which was the main stage location for the global event. We joined over 9,000 participants around the world in a weekend hackathon to build open-source solutions to space-oriented challenges. Since Cesium is open-source, it was a perfect opportunity to find a challenge that could showcase Cesium’s capabilities.

The challenge we selected was to build an interactive viewer for images of Earth taken by the ISS EarthKAM program, which allows middle school students to select areas on Earth that will be photographed from the International Space Station. The application lets the students explore the satellite images overlaid onto Earth’s surface at the correct location and annotate, comment on, and share those images.

Our project, which we named EarthKAM Explorer, used CZML to display colored polygons representing each of the images taken during each of the EarthKAM missions, as well as the time-dynamic position and orbit path of the ISS. Selecting a polygon flies the camera to that location, loads the real image and information about when it was taken, and sets the clock so that the ISS appears overhead.

We also had access to a Leap Motion Controller at the event, allowing us to directly control the Cesium camera with hand gestures, which you can see in our 5-minute presentation of our project:

Our project took second place in the judging at the Philadelphia event, which enables us to move on to the global judging round in May. The source code to the application is available on GitHub, and you can also run the application yourself. Overall, the Space Apps Challenge was a great experience, and hopefully even more teams will use Cesium in their projects next year!