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Scientists focusing on space research and space-based Earth-research are poised to realize the benefits of cloud computing. Features of cloud computing, such as “instant-on” IT infrastructure, automated provisioning capabilities, and quick scale-up services, are ideally suited for organizations seeking to process large datasets fast, easily share them with colleagues and ultimately store them securely at a good price. In 2009 NASA started work on developing its own cloud, Nebula, with the view to provide a cutting-edge, dynamically scalable computing platform capable of meeting Federal/Agency IT standards. This paper examines the Nebula team's process of exploring the cloud computing paradigm ultimately arriving at the decision to build NASA its own private cloud for science and mission use. Examples of current and future uses of Nebula are provided as insights into how cloud technology can be used to advance earth and science research.