As reported in these pages over the past two years, the NASA Office of Space Science (OSS) has been working to improve its data system infrastructure to support its four space science "themes" and foster interdisciplinary research across the tradition disciplines. The process involved, in sequence, assessment of NSSDC as an Institute, the "Linsky Report," and a broad community-involved "Town Meeting." The process also involved significant uncertainty about the future of NSSDC. The consensus that has emerged is to evolve a unified Space Science Data System (SSDS) environment, building on the foundation of data systems currently in place, including NSSDC. SSDS is envisioned as a coordinated confederation of data systems with interoperability as a high priority design goal to foster sharing, commonality, and broader access.
A technical working group is being established with representation from current space science data activities, including this author, to define functional interfaces; to identify opportunities for integration, improved interoperability, and commonality; and to recommend implementation projects for the evolution toward an SSDS. It is expected that there will be clarification of functional roles and/or some exchange/transfer of functions across the current data systems, but it is important to note that fundamental ground rules for planning the transition are continuity of service to the research and general public communities, no failure to meet commitments currrently in place, and no loss of science data in the process.
An SSDS Web site is being established to keep the community posted and engaged as plans evolve. This Web site will be visible from the NSSDC home page when it becomes available.
In the meantime, NSSDC and the Space Science Data Operations Office (SSDOO) are proceeding with the preparation of a request for proposals for support of the NSSDC and other activities pursued within the SSDOO. The new contract, to be in place by late January 1998, will recognize the probability that some current NSSDC activities may be migrated elsewhere during the contract life as the SSDS evolves.
As such SSDS realignments are implemented, they will be reported in these pages. However, this article will mark the end of the ongoing series of articles of the future of NSSDC.
Erin D. Gardner, email@example.com, (301) 286-0163
Hughes STX, Code 633, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771, U.S.A.