Space Operations:

NASA Is Not Properly Safeguarding Valuable Data From Past Missions

IMTEC-90-1: Published: Mar 2, 1990. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 1990.

Contact:

Samuel W. Bowlin
(202) 512-6240
contact@gao.gov

 

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GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) management and storage of space science data.

GAO found that NASA: (1) stored space data under unsatisfactory conditions; (2) did not perform an agencywide inventory of its magnetic tapes and, consequently, did not know what data were retained or lost; (3) could not easily identify or retrieve tapes stored in its centers or at universities; and (4) did not enforce federal regulations or develop standards for minimum acceptable storage, maintenance, or inventory practices. GAO also found that: (1) storage and processing facilities did not have adequate temperature control or fire and water protection; (2) some facilities lacked security against unauthorized entry into storage areas; and (3) only one facility maintained backup files to restore data accidentally lost or destroyed.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should instruct NASA officials responsible for the management of data to assess, in cooperation with the scientific community, the inventoried data for their scientific value and the integrity of their storage media.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The value of data and current storage media will continue to be systematically assessed over the next few years.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should instruct NASA officials responsible for the management of data to copy valuable data from deteriorating tapes to archival quality magnetic tapes or other storage media suitable for long-term retention of digital data, and release unneeded tapes for reuse or disposal.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has several ongoing efforts to copy source data to compact disk technology.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should instruct NASA officials responsible for the management of data to archive valuable scientific data in facilities that meet National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regulations.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A number of corrective actions have been taken. More will follow as funding permits.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should instruct NASA officials responsible for the management of data to develop and implement agencywide tape management and maintenance standards which include all National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regulations and appropriate National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The handbook on records management has been completed.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should instruct NASA officials responsible for the management of data to ensure that the offices and officials responsible for managing space science data are identified and their responsibilities clearly defined.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA issued its revised policies on March 5, 1992, and responsibilities have been defined.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should instruct NASA officials responsible for the management of data to ensure that NASA officials responsible for overseeing NASA information resources management (IRM) periodically review NASA data management and archiving to ensure compliance with NARA regulations.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has modified its IRM review program to include reviews of archiving practices and storage facilities.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should instruct NASA officials responsible for the management of data to ensure that NASA data management and archiving are allocated adequate resources to properly store and maintain NASA space science data holdings.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA initiated its comprehensive data management initiative on March 5, 1992.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should periodically review and inspect NASA records management practices as required by the Federal Information Resources Management Regulations.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The General Services Administration (GSA) strengthened its oversight function. A review of NASA has been completed.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should instruct NASA officials responsible for the management of data to conduct a thorough inventory of all NASA space science data stored at NASA centers and contractors, universities, research institutions, and other federal agencies.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA has completed an inventory of tapes held by the scientific community.

    Recommendation: The Archivist of the United States should periodically inspect and review NASA records documentation and disposition practices as required by regulations.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration: National Archives and Records Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NARA will undertake a series of evaluations of NASA records management activities from 1991 to 1993.

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