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NAIF

For the Public

All of the SPICE data and allied software are required to be freely available to all U.S. citizens whose tax dollars make the operation of NASA missions and the NAIF activity possible. In addition, NAIF makes these data and software available to everyone around the globe. (There may be government-based access restrictions at some locales.) As such, the global public has free access to exactly and entirely the same data and software that are provided to NASA's solar system exploration projects' scientists and engineers; nothing is held back.

SPICE data are always in the form of numbers, requiring the use of allied SPICE software to compute interesting observation geometry parameters such as positions, altitudes, lighting angles, and latitudes and longitudes. Thus, using SPICE data normally requires good programming skills since most SPICE software is in the form of application program interfaces (APIs, often called subroutines or modules) that a user integrates into her/his own application program.

Members of the public who wish to try their hand at using SPICE data and software may make use of the same training materials NAIF offers to professional scientists and engineers. The primary resources are a large set of tutorials and a self-guided training course based on those tutorials and "open book" programming lessons. All of the SPICE software is very well documented. You will have to be willing to spend the time to read the tutorials and to try the programming lessons!

One alternative to writing your own program using SPICE APIs is to use NAIF's on-line geometry engine, named WebGeocalc. With this tool a person can make many rather complicated observation geometry calculations without having to write some code: one uses a web browser to select the desired computation, select the data (SPICE kernels) to be used, and provide needed command instructions. The results of the computation appear in your browser's window. You can read more about WebGeocalc here. But take note: even using this tool requires some understanding of space geometry, and the prospecive user MUST read the "About the Data" webpage linked to from within the tool!

If "hacking NASA" is your thing, poking at this website will not be rewarding since everything produced by NAIF is freely, openly offered from this website. This includes exposing folders within which data and software may be found. We realize that exposing folders is generally NOT common practice, but it is intentional here. Instead of hacking, why not consider learning enough about SPICE data and software to construct some truly novel and useful tools that could be of interest to space scientists and engineers around the globe?

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