Space Data:

NASA's Future Data Volumes Create Formidable Challenges

IMTEC-91-24: Published: Apr 8, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1991.

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Samuel W. Bowlin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) future storage needs and its initiatives for using information technologies.

GAO found that: (1) the volume of data NASA will archive will rise over 5,600 percent from 1990 to 2000; (2) NASA planned to design and construct the Earth Observing System Data Information System (EOSDIS), using an advanced mass storage system, to support the estimated $38-billion Earth Observing System (EOS) program; (3) EOSDIS initiatives could pose formidable challenges because of NASA reliance on an advanced mass data storage system that is not yet available, that may not work, and for which no media and data format standards exist; (4) NASA estimated that improving and completing its Customer Data and Operations System (CDOS), designed to provide initial ground processing, communications, data distribution, and archival of initially processed data, could cost between $500 million to $600 million; (5) the NASA information technology initiatives may not be visible to Congress, since NASA did not plan to report separately on each initiative; and (6) some planned storage requirements for EOSDIS may be unnecessarily redundant, adding about $35 million to the estimated cost.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A permanent archive has been designed into EDOS, and will be removed from EOSDIS.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should review the current plans for EOSDIS and CDOS and ensure that unnecessary data holdings are eliminated, and that project funding is reduced accordingly.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA is now reporting costs of EOSDIS separately in an existing project status report.

    Recommendation: To keep congressional oversight committees abreast of key information technology initiatives, the Administrator, NASA, should require NASA comptroller officials to either: (1) prepare separate project status reports on EOSDIS and CDOS; or (2) make their costs and progress clearly visible within an existing project status report.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration


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