Planetary Data System

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The Planetary Data System (PDS) is a distributed data system that NASA uses to archive data collected by Solar System missions.

The PDS is an active archive that makes available well documented, peer reviewed planetary data to the research community.[1] The data comes from orbital, landed and robotic missions and ground-based support data associated with those missions. It is managed by NASA Headquarters' Planetary Sciences Division.

PDS archiving philosophy[edit]

The main objective of the PDS is to maintain a planetary data archive that will withstand the test of time such that future generations of scientists can access, understand and use preexisting planetary data. The PDS tries to ensure compatibility of the archive by adhering to strict standards of storage media, archiving formats, and required documentation.

Storage media[edit]

One critical component of the PDS archive is the storage media. The data must be stored effectively and efficiently with no degradation of the data over the archive's lifespan. Therefore, the physical media must have large capacity and must remain readable over many years. PDS is migrating toward electronic storage as its "standard" media.

Archiving formats[edit]

The format of the data is also important. In general, transparent, non-proprietary formats are best. When a proprietary format is submitted to the archive (such as a Microsoft Word document) an accompanying plain text file is also required. It is assumed that the scientists of the future will at least be able to make sense of regular ASCII bytes even if the proprietary software and support ceases to exist. PDS allows figures and illustrations to be included in the archive as individual images. PDS adheres to many other standards including, but not limited to, special directory and file naming conventions and label requirements. Each file in the PDS archive is accompanied by a searchable label (attached or detached) that describes the file content.

Archiving documents[edit]

The archive must be complete and be able to stand alone. There is no guarantee that the people who originally worked with and submitted the data to the archive will be available in the future to field questions regarding the data, its calibration or the mission. Therefore, the archive must include good descriptive documentation of how the spacecraft and its instruments worked, how the data were collected and calibrated, and what the data mean. The quality of the documentation is examined during a mission independent PDS peer review.


The PDS is composed of 8 nodes, 6 science discipline nodes[2] and 2 support nodes. In addition, there are several subnodes and data nodes whose exact status tends to change over time.[citation needed]

Science discipline nodes[edit]

Support nodes[edit]

Organizational structure[edit]

The PDS is divided into a number of science discipline "nodes" which are individually curated by planetary scientists.[citation needed]

The PDS Management Council serves as the technical policy board of the PDS, and provides findings for NASA with respect to planetary science data management, ensures coordination among the nodes, guarantees responsiveness to customer needs, and monitors the appropriate uses of evolving information technologies that may make PDS tasks both more efficient and more cost effective.[7] It is formed by the principal investigators of the science discipline nodes, along with the leaders of the Technical Support Nodes, the Project Manager, and Deputy Project Manager.[citation needed]

The Solar System Exploration Data Services Office at the Goddard Space Flight Center handles PDS Project Management.[8]

Roadmap 2017–2026[edit]

NASA and the PDS recently engaged in development of a Roadmap for the period 2017 to 2026. The purpose of the roadmap effort was to outline a strategy for moving forward in planetary data archiving under the auspices of a rapidly growing data volume (nearly 1 petabyte at present), new computing capabilities, tools, and facilities, and a growing community of planetary science investigators.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "PDS: PDS Charter" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-16. Retrieved 2017-08-16.
  2. ^ "NASA Issues New Awards for Planetary Data System". Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  3. ^ "PDS: Node Descriptions". Retrieved 2022-09-08.
  4. ^ "PDS Geosciences Node, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri". Retrieved 2022-09-08.
  5. ^ "Cartography and Imaging Sciences Node of NASA Planetary Data System | USGS Astrogeology Science Center". Retrieved 2022-09-08.
  6. ^ "Ring-Moon Systems Node Home". Retrieved 2022-09-08.
  7. ^ "PDS: PDS Requirements" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-04-26. Retrieved 2017-08-16.
  8. ^ "PDS: PDS Organization". Archived from the original on 2017-05-13. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  9. ^ "PDS: PDS Roadmap 2017 to 2026" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-08-16.[dead link]

External links[edit]