NASA Announces NSSDC To Be "Privatized"

Volume 11, Number 2, June 1995
By Joseph King
At his major news conference on May 19, 1995, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin announced a series of steps involving the consolidation of functions across NASA field centers, conversion of certain science activities to university-affiliated institutes, privatization of some other functions, and other steps. All these are intended to decrease NASA spending and/or to improve the effectiveness of certain functions. As a follow-up to Goldin's discussion, Goddard Acting Director Joseph Rothenberg briefed the Goddard community on the implications for Goddard. One of the descisions announced is a privatization of the National Space Science Data Center. One view of this is that the privatized NSSDC would be an institute serving as the data node of a network of science institutes.

NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin discusses decreasing NASA spending during his major news conference on May 19, 1995.

Goddard Acting Director Joseph Rothenberg addresses privatization of the NSSDC.

There are many issues that NASA and Goddard will address carefully as the term "NSSDC privatization" is given meaning. NASA has an overriding commitment to preserve and protect the data of continuing value from past and current missions now in the NSSDC archives. In addition to uncountable science papers on library shelves, these data represent the key legacy of NASA's scientific past. NASA also has a commitment to increase the ease of location of, access to, and use of these data.

Current NSSDC managers will participate with other NASA managers and scientists in defining the nature of the privatized entity that will continue NSSDC functionality. In this process NASA will solicit suggestions from academia and industry on optimal "privatization strategies." The resulting entity may be wholly, partly, or not physically located at Goddard.

It is recognized that the function of archiving and disseminating space science data will not generate sufficient revenue to enable the creation of a self-sustaining commercial entity. NASA resources and therefore NASA oversight will continue their involvement. NASA, however, anticipates new management relations in which industry and/or academia will bring to bear new and more cost-beneficial space science data management and archiving services. Academia and/or industry will play roles they can most effectively assume, and NASA will play the roles it needs to play.

The time scale for privatization of NSSDC is likely to be between one and a few years.

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Author:Miranda Beall
Curators: Erin Gardner and Miranda Beall
Responsible Official: Dr. Joseph H. King, Code 633
Last Revised: 21 Nov 1996 [EDG]