APPROACHING THE FINAL FRONTIER
■ BY L. PAUL VERHAGE
USING GOOGLE EARTH TO CHART
A NEAR SPACE FLIGHT PATH
(Or Your Other Travels)
AFTER MY NEAR SPACE MISSION WITH THE Adler Planetarium in Chicago this
summer, Mark Hammergren of the Adler introduced me to Google Earth. I had
heard of Google Earth before, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it. But once I
saw what Mark had done, I realized I should have researched Google Earth long
ago. I’ve developed a Google Earth standard for my near space data that I’d like
to share with you this month. And after reading this month’s column, I think
you’ll be as impressed with Google Earth as I am.
Google Earth is an online database
and application, so you’ll need
access to the Internet to run it (see
Figure 1). The program uses a
small data file containing the near
spacecraft’s positions as input and
formatting instructions for its output.
The instructions are written in a form
of HTML called KML. A Google Earth
KML file is small and simple enough
that it can be written with Notepad.
First, you need to install the
Google Earth application. The
minimum PC configuration that
Google recommends is a Pentium 3,
500 MHz system running Windows
2000 (choke!) or XP with 128 MB of
RAM, 400 MB of free space on the
hard drive, and a network connection
of at least 128 Kbits/second. On the
Mac side of the house, the minimum
system requirement is a G3 500 MHz
system running Mac OS X 10. 3. 9 with
256 MB of RAM.
Got that? Then start your browser
and go to the website, http://
earth.google.com/. There you’ll find a
link called Get Google Earth (Free
Version). Click on this link and
install Google Earth on your PC.
There’s a short KML tutorial at
tut.html and more complete tutorials
_21tutorial.html and http://earth.
google.com/kml/kml_tags_ 21.html .
What I’m going to show you in this
month’s column is enough for you to
start writing your own KML files, so
you don’t need to read the documen-
■ FIGURE 1 tation right way.