Columbia disaster spurs NASA in software development

NASA officials have acknowledged that a long-term fix is needed to build software systems that do not fail. The space agency's...

NASA officials have acknowledged that a long-term fix is needed to build safe mission system software systems,  and the space agency's subsequent efforts may, ultimately, help all IT managers.

The Columbia space shuttle crash earlier this month brought renewed attention to the highly complex computer systems and software used by NASA. It was "an important watershed event" that prompted the agency to broaden outreach efforts to improve software design, said Henry McDonald, who headed NASA's Ames Research Center in California until last November.

NASA played a leading role in last year's creation of the Sustainable Computing Consortium (SCC), which includes companies such as Federal Express, Pfizer, Microsoft and Oracle.

SCC, which is based at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, creates "high-dependability" software for systems that tolerate hardware faults well, maintain a high level of security during attacks and are always available.

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