Back in the 1980s, I was writing open-source programs for NASA. Oh, we didn’t call it open source then. Open source as a term wouldn’t exist until 1998. All the code we produced was “free software,” but we didn’t call it that either. We just made the best code we could and shared it with people. It was a different time. Many of these programs were made available under the COSMIC software project. Today, NASA is centralizing its open-source offerings at the Code NASA Web-site.
The idea of this new Web-site is to “continue, unify, and expand NASA’s open source activities. The site will serve to surface existing projects, provide a forum for discussing projects and processes, and guide internal and external groups in open development, release, and contribution.” That’s all for the best since, while NASA started formally supporting open-source software in 2003, those efforts have usually not been very co-ordinated.
As William Eshagh, who is spearheading the project wrote on the NASA open-source blog, NASA is first “focusing on providing a home for the current state of open source at the Agency. This includes guidance on how to engage the open source process, points of contact, and a directory of existing projects.”