NASA’s earth observation missions commenced with the TIROS and Nimbus satellites in the 1970s and continue to the present day. NASA’s earth science activities have led to increasingly sophisticated satellite instruments, much larger data volumes, more complex data analyses, and a diverse suite of data products generated with sophisticated data algorithms. The data from these missions constitutes a vital archive for earth science research.
One of the challenges of maintaining the ‘usability’ of this data archive is data preservation. This term means not just keeping the actual data in a safe, secure, and robust system – it also means maintaining the availability of related information necessary to use the data in a secure archive, far into the future.
As part of this effort, the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC) has recently completed a data preservation campaign for data from the High-resolution Dynamic Limb Sounder (HIRDLS) instrument, which is an instrument on the Aura Earth Observing System (EOS) satellite, launched in 2004. The GES DISC is the designated data archive for HIRDLS data.
Data preservation encompasses eight different content items:
- Preflight/Pre-Operations Calibration
- Science Data Products
- Science Data Product Documentation
- Mission Data Calibration
- Science Data Product Software
- Science Data Product Algorithm Input
- Science Data Product Validation
- Science Data Software Tools
Because data from NASA’s missions are valuable scientific resources, data preservation efforts such as that for HIRDLS are intended to allow scientists to use the data in the future for comparisons with newer instrument datasets, as well as with evolving and new data analysis methods. In turn, this will increase the usefulness of earth observations from upcoming missions by creating an improved historical comparison capability and a much better characterization of trends in earth system data records. The results of such research allow insight into the changes affecting Earth’s vital ecosystems and the natural support systems on which humanity relies.