NASA has announced that it is making a large collection of NASA climate and Earth science satellite data available to the public via the Amazon cloud.
- NASA Brings Earth Science 'Big Data' to the Cloud with Amazon Web Services, by Ruth Marlaire, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. RELEASE 13-307 (Nov. 12, 2013).
By using the cloud, research and application users worldwide gain access to an integrated Earth science computational and data management system they can use on their own.
The service encompasses selected NASA satellite and global change data sets -- including temperature, precipitation, and forest cover -- and data processing tools from the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), a research platform of the NASA Advanced Supercomputer Facility at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
- NASA NEX, Amazon.
Three NASA NEX datasets are now available, including climate projections and satellite images of Earth.
More information here.
[Editor's note 5/23/13: Several people have contacted FGI and asked for clarification. The title of our post, which we borrowed from Steven Aftergood, is a little misleading. The decision to suspend access to NASA technical reports was purely the decision of NASA administrators. GPO's news item makes it clear that GPO is only announcing that some of the purls to NASA technical reports in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) "may not link to the documents that the catalog record describes."]
Steven Aftergood reports that The Government Printing Office is blocking public access to some previously released records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. PURLs may not link to the documents that the catalog record describes.
- GPO Suspends Public Access to Some NASA Records, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (May 16, 2013).
The Government Printing Office is blocking public access to some previously released records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, while the records are reviewed to see if they contain export-controlled information. The move follows the controversial disabling and partial restoration of the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) (NASA Technical Report Database Partly Back Online, Secrecy News, May 9.)
- NASA Technical Reports Server Has Limited Content Availability Until Further Notice, FDLP (May 16, 2013).
Affected classes are:
NAS 1.15: 0830-D
NAS 1.26: 0830-H-14
NAS 1.2/2-2: 0830-H-26
NAS 1.60: 0830-H-15
See also our earlier comment on this issue.
Steven Aftergood reports that some reports have been restored to the NASA Technical Reports Server:
- NASA Technical Report Database Partly Back Online by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (May 9, 2013).
...many of the NTRS records have been restored, including open literature publications, magazine articles, and other documents that were already in the public domain in any case. But hundreds of thousands of others still await a formal export control review to certify them for public release.
We love our gov-docs, don't we? Enjoy:
- Twenty Awesome Covers From The US Space Program, Space Kinja.
The upcoming 2013 April 18 Space Exploration Signature Auction by Heritage Auctions brought us these fine document covers. Manuals, guidebooks, press kits, reports, brochures - all with cool artworks and typography. Enjoy!
NASA took its Technical Report Server (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/) offline this week, saying :
The NASA technical reports server will be unavailable for public access while the agency conducts a review of the site's content to ensure that it does not contain technical information that is subject to U.S. export control laws and regulations and that the appropriate reviews were performed. The site will return to service when the review is complete. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
As Steven Aftergood reported at Secrecy News [emphasis added]:
In other words, all NASA technical documents, no matter how voluminous and valuable they are, should cease to be publicly available in order to prevent the continued disclosure of any restricted documents, no matter how limited or insignificant they may be.
"There is a HUGE amount of material on NTRS," said space policy analyst Dwayne Day. "If NASA is forced to review it all, it will never go back online."
-- "NASA Technical Reports Database Goes Dark" by Steven Aftergood (March 21st, 2013).
Michael L. Nelson of the Department of Computer Science at Old Dominion University investigated the availability of some of the NASA reports at other archives and reports his findings on his blog:
- NTRS, Web Archives, and Why We Should Build Collections, by Michael L. Nelson, Web Science and Digital Libraries (March 23, 2013).
Nelson found that some reports are available at http://naca.central.cranfield.ac.uk/ which is an archive of some NASA information that Nelson helped establish after NASA websites were taken down after September 11, 2001. He notes that the removal of information from NASA servers at that time "made it clear to me that NASA information was too important to be left on *.nasa.gov computers." He found more data at the Internet Archive's "NASA Technical Documents" collection: http://archive.org/details/nasa_techdocs and in Mark Phillips NACA collection at http://digital.library.unt.edu/explore/collections/NACA/ .
Nelson draws some conclusions from all this [emphasis added]:
...it is events like this that demonstrate the value of copying by-value and not just by-reference.
In other words, pointing to web sites is much less valuable and much more fragile than acquiring copies of digital information and building digital collections that you control. The OAIS reference model for long term preservation makes this a requirement, saying that an organization that intends to provide information to its user community for the long-term, must "Obtain sufficient control of the information provided to the level needed to ensure Long-Term Preservation." Pointing to a web page or PDF at nasa.gov is not obtaining any control.
He also makes a distinction between those things that are saved because of their popularity and things that will not be saved unless special care is taken to preserve them:
I'm not concerned about popular culture artifacts disappearing (e.g., see our TPDL 2011 paper about music redundancy in YouTube), but it is not clear that long tail content like NASA reports will enjoy that same level of uncoordinated refreshing and migration. The moral of the story: make copies of the content...
And he notes the importance of multiple copies:
...a 1994 NASA TM of mine is on at least six different hosts, none of which are *.nasa.gov.
...If NTRS was a LOCKSS participant then access would be uninterrupted...
And Aftergood concludes [emphasis added]:
The upshot is that the government is not an altogether reliable repository of official records. Members of the public who depend on access to such records should endeavor to make and preserve their own copies whenever possible.
Here at FGI, we have repeatedly argued that identifying important information that warrants explicit preservation is the age-old role of libraries in society and that it still is (or should be) the key value of libraries in the digital age. Many government agencies, including NASA and the Government Printing Office have good intentions and good programs for preservation and access, but those agencies cannot guarantee that they will always provide preservation and access. In the case of the NTRS web site, Aftergood and others speculate that the take down was a response to a demand by a single Congressman who said in a press conference on March 18 [emphasis added]:
NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review and all controlled documents are removed from the system.
The NTRS web site was taken offline on March 19.
Government agencies are subject to political activities like this and budgetary limitations. Very bad things can happen which, in cases like this can remove from access, "all NASA technical documents, no matter how voluminous and valuable they are" in a single moment.
Libraries should still be selecting, acquiring, organizing, and preserving information for their user-communities, and providing access to and services for those collections. Libraries do no one a long-term service by simply pointing to resources over which they have no control and which someone else can simply make unavailable literally at the flick of a switch.
FDLP libraries should demand digital deposit from GPO and should actively select and acquire that digital public government information that is of value to their user communities that GPO cannot deposit because it is outside the scope of Title 44.
Hours after NASA's successful landing on Mars of its Mars rover, one of NASA's official clips from the mission was pulled from YouTube, and replaced with a notice from the video site indicating that the "video contains content from Scripps Local News, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."
The video was replaced and Scripps apologized, but it is an example of how the scale are tipped in favor of the "content industry" and even obvious, public-domain content gets caught in the privatization of information trap. EFF has the background on the technology and how it works:
- Mars Landing Videos, and Other Casualties of the Robot Wars, by Parker Higgins, Electronic Frontier Foundation (Aug 8, 2012).
[T]he problem likely lies not with the DMCA itself, but with the additional (and voluntary) automated Content ID system YouTube has developed. Content ID uses digital fingerprinting technology to identify duplicate audio and video on YouTube and, depending on the "business rules" configuration of the designated rightsholder, blocks or places ads next to videos. Unfortunately, the robots behind that copyright enforcement machine have the tendency to shoot first and ask questions later, even when it ends up silencing real -- human -- speech.
It takes a village: NASA Curiosity successfully lands on Mars. See the documents behind the landing #MSLSubmitted by jrjacobs on Mon, 2012-08-06 21:05.
But remember there was a lot of hard work, analysis, community input and criticism that went into those 7 minutes of terror. You can find out more about the entire mars landing project by going to the GPO's Catalog of govt publications (CGP). And you can find NASA's Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission on the Mars Science Laboratory site -- as well as some of the criticism about the project (yikes: "Mars Science Laboratory Mission says a launch accident discharging plutonium has a 1-in-420 chance of happening and could “release material into the regional area defined…to be within…62 miles of the launch pad,” That’s an area including Orlando."). And many of these and other NASA publications and technical reports are available in FDLP libraries around the country.
In an apparently leaked memo, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, says that as of Jan 1, 2012 they will no longer maintain a physical library facility at the two GFSC locations.
- Goddard Libraries Transition to Electronic Services, From: GSFC-Communications, To: GSFC-DL-ALL, Sent: Monday, October 31, 2011 11:20 AM, signed by Marilyn C. Tolliver, Chief Information and Logistics Management Division, and Robin M. Dixon, Head Knowledge Resources and Library Branch The Goddard Library; reprinted at SpaceRef.com (Oct. 31, 2011).
Beginning January 1, 2012, the NASA Goddard libraries at Greenbelt and Wallops will transition to an all-electronic activity. In response to changes in the research environment and to Center-driven resource priorities, we will no longer maintain a physical presence but will focus on supporting the research needs of the Goddard community electronically. Our digital presence will remain as a portal to our vast collection of electronic material and our research specialists will continue to be available to support evolving requirements of Goddard's researchers.
Our colleague Gary Price at INFOdocket has some pointed questions about what will happen to the printed collection and the librarians who staffed the physical facilities:
- SpaceRef: "NASA Internal Memo: Goddard to Transition to Electronic Services", by Gary D. Price, INFOdocket (November 1, 2011).
Gary also has lots of good links including links to a bunch of NASA libraries and list of 50+ specialty libraries that are a part of Goddard.
We've all heard of libraries without books, but it is less often we hear of libraries without facilities at all. Certainly in the digital age it should be possible to have excellent and even enhanced services without requiring information-users to visit a physical space. A link in the memo to a FAQ goes to a non-public web page and the brief memo raises more questions than it answers:
- Will the library be building and preserving a collection or just linking to and licensing access to information resources held by others?
- Will the "new services" the memo mentions be in addition to or instead of older services?
- Is this just a "realignment of resources" within the libraries or is it a reduction in funding to libraries?
Need I say more?
- Download NASA Sounds
Here's a collection of NASA sounds from historic spaceflights and current missions. You can hear the roar of a space shuttle launch or Neil Armstrong's "One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind" every time you get a phone call. Or, you can hear the memorable words "Houston, we've had a problem," every time you make an error on your computer. We have included both MP3 and M4R (iPhone) sound files to download.