NASA’s supercomputers are joining the effort to look for potential treatment and vaccine candidates for COVID-19. It comes as the US struggles to grapple with the outbreak as it spreads through the country at an alarming rate.
A new initiative bringing together NASA and the National Science Foundation as well as hosting the Department of Energy laboratories, companies and academic institutions is looking to come up with solutions faster than humans are capable of.
Announced by The White House on Monday, it will divert spare computing resources to research aimed at slowing the pandemic.
IBM sparked the initiative, partnering with the US government to make a vast number of supercomputers available.
In a statement posted to Twitter, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “I’m proud that NASA is lending our supercomputing expertise to assist in the global fight against COVID-19.
“For more than six decades the agency has used its expertise to take on challenges that have benefited people worldwide in unexpected ways.”
According to Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA will redirect part of its supercomputer time towards the Earth science division.
This particular branch of the space agency is constantly attempting to better understand Earth’s interconnected systems from a global scale, right down to the minute processes that set things in motion.
Mr Zurbuchen similarly took to Twitter and said: “Researchers input satellite data to run climate models to predict Earth’s future climate.
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“NASA is pleased to lend our supercomputing expertise to assist in the global fight against COVID19.”
According to a White House statement, researchers working on projects related to COVID-19 will be able to apply for time on the supercomputers.
The computers will use algorithms and sophisticated programmes to speed-up calculations necessary for slowing the pandemic.
Michael Kratsios, the US chief technology officer, said: “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.”
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Other partners in the new consortium include MIT, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, and the National Science Foundation.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the coronavirus disease pandemic is “accelerating”, with more than 300,000 cases now confirmed.
It took just 67 days for the first reported COVID-19 cases to reach 100,000.
Despite the downwards spiral, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was optimistic that the virus’ trajectory could still be changed.
He urged countries to adopt regions testing and contact-tracing strategies.
In a joint news conference with Fifa president Gianni Infantino, he announced the launch of a “kick out coronavirus” campaign featuring footballers.
He said: “What matters most is what we do.
“You can’t win a football game by defending.
“You have to attack as well.”
Although he praised the social-distancing measures in place around the world, Mr Tedros described them as “defensive measures that will not help us to win”.
He added: “To win, we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics – testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and chasing and quarantining every close contact.”
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