New to SPICE?

While freely available to everyone worldwide, SPICE was designed for use by professional scientists and engineers to accurately and confidently obtain precise results for what are often rather complex computations. If you are just now thinking about using SPICE, be aware that it is a rather large system that takes some effort to learn. But take heart: there are many hundreds of scientists, engineers and other professionals around the world that use it successfully every day... so you probably can also do so.

Essentially everything NAIF has to offer: data, software, documentation, training materials, and numerous tips and hints about how to resolve problems, is available from this website. Consequently this website is quite extensive. You will have to commit to reading a fair amount of material available from this website in order to successfully use SPICE.

Before diving into SPICE details we suggest you first click on the "About SPICE," "For the Public" or "For Projects," and "Rules" links found on the left-side navigation bar.

Then we suggest you read a few of the SPICE Tutorials. In particular, the SPICE Overview tutorial provides a broad view of what SPICE is, what are its components, and how it can be used. If, after reading that overview, you are inclined to investigate further, you can obtain more understanding of the major SPICE components— data files (called "kernels") and software (called "Toolkit")— by reading the Introduction to Kernels and Introduction to Toolkit tutorials.

For the most part, using SPICE requires use of a program (an application) that you will build yourself. This program will incorporate some SPICE Toolkit subroutines—also known as APIs or modules or functions. You'll need to learn about SPICE Toolkit software, SPICE data, and SPICE conventions, and you'll have to be able to write your program in one of the SPICE-supported languages: Fortran 77, C, IDL, MATLAB, or in a language such as Python or Ruby that can interface with the C-language Toolkit. You can see a working example program in any of the four SPICE-supported languages by opening any one of the programming example tutorials found near the bottom of this listing of tutorials.

By now you should have a reasonable idea of how SPICE works and what you must do to use it. (Except, see the non-programming alternative shown below.) If you decide to continue on, we suggest you follow the Self training curriculum.

If you're going to use a SPICE-aware application provided by someone else, you will still have to obtain some understanding of SPICE data and SPICE conventions by reading some of the SPICE Tutorials.

A possible alternative to writing your own SPICE-aware tool, or obtaining a colleague's tool, would be to use the Graphical User Interface to SPICE provided in the WebGeocalc tool. While quite capable, this tool does not offer all of the functionality available when using SPICE Toolkit APIs, and the data (SPICE kernels) available to this tool are limited to those described under the "About the data" link available within the tool.

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