Saw this go by today, and just had to read it. It is a very interesting writing.  There is a who's who list of companies and organizations involved (Microsoft, Google, NASA, Oracle, Informix, several university research groups, etc).

There are several interesting angles and quotes in this story including, for example:

The lead developer on TerraServer, Microsoft's Tom Barclay, took on the job of organizing the air search while coordinating efforts with Google to obtain satellite imagery. Of the archrival companies working together, he told a reporter, "We were competitors yesterday and we'll be competitors tomorrow, but today we're partners."...