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NASA supercomputers join fight against coronavirus

Home News Tech The 512-processor SGI Altix supercomputer, at NASA Ames Research Center, named ‘Kalpana’ after Columbia astronaut and Ames alumna Kalpana Chawla, is being used to develop substantially more capable simulation models to better assess the evolution and behavior of the Earth’s climate system. Image caption (Image: © Thomas N. Trower.) As the U.S.…

The 512-processor SGI Altix supercomputer, at NASA Ames Research Center, named 'Kalpana' after Columbia astronaut and Ames alumna Kalpana Chawla, is being used to develop substantially more capable simulation models to better assess the evolution and behavior of the Earth's climate system.

The 512-processor SGI Altix supercomputer, at NASA Ames Research Center, named ‘Kalpana’ after Columbia astronaut and Ames alumna Kalpana Chawla, is being used to develop substantially more capable simulation models to better assess the evolution and behavior of the Earth’s climate system. Image caption

(Image: © Thomas N. Trower.)

As the U.S. scrambles to respond to the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, NASA supercomputers are joining the effort to look for potential treatment and vaccine candidates.

A new initiative brings together NASA and the National Science Foundation as well as a host of Department of Energy laboratories, companies and academic institutions. The White House announced the effort, meant to divert spare computing resources to research aimed at slowing the pandemic, today (March 23).

“I’m proud that @NASA is lending our supercomputing expertise to assist in the global fight against COVID-19,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement on Twitter. “For more than six decades the agency has used its expertise to take on challenges that have benefited people worldwide in unexpected ways.”

Related: Coronavirus prevention measures take their toll on astronomy

One of the areas of NASA redirecting its supercomputer time is the Earth science division, according to Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen. “Researchers input satellite data to run climate models to predict Earth’s future climate,” Zurbuchen said in a statement on Twitter. “NASA is pleased to lend our supercomputing expertise to assist in the global fight against #COVID19.”

Researchers working on projects related to COVID-19 will be able to apply for time on the supercomputers, according to a White House statement, which should speed up calculations necessary for slowing the pandemic.

“America is coming together to fight COVID-19, and that means unleashing the full capacity of our world-class supercomputers to rapidly advance scientific research for treatments and a vaccine,” Michael Kratsios, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, said in the statement.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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