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NASA faces problems with satellite data.

Starting in 1988, NASA will launch an armada of expensive satellites designed to monitor the Earth's health through the beginning of the next century. But this program, called the Earth Observing System (EOS), may suffer severe setbacks because NASA is not preparing adequately to handle the flood of data coming from the satellites, report investigators from Congress' General Accounting Office (GAO).

During its 15-year lifetime, EOS could collect roughly 11 million gigabytes of data--more than 1,000 times the information stored by the Library of Congress. NASA is currently devising the EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS), a nationwide computing system that will process, store and distribute EOS information to the estimated 10,000 researchers and other users around the world who will want access to it.

For years, NASA has come under fire for the way it manages data. Critics have charged that the agency spends millions to send a probe into space and then fails to archive the information collected during the mission. In preparing for the EOS program. NASA sought to avoid repeating past mistakes by designing a revolutionary system for handling and disseminating data. The agency plans to spend $3 billion on EOSDIS by the turn of the century--that's more than a quarter of the total amount slated for the EOS project during that period. Last year, an engineering board reviewing NASA's plans called EOSDIS "the largest data and information system contemplated by this nation."

Yet NASA is currently not performing the work necessary for creating a successful EOSDIS, the GAO charges in its report, issued last month. In particular, the space agency has not devoted enough funding or attention to building prototypes of critical EOSDIS elements. At the same time, NASA has not made sufficient efforts to develop the new computing technologies that will prove essential for EOSDIS, according to the GAO. "NASA is running an unnecessarily high risk that EOSDIS may not meet future global change research needs and may need costly modifications to be useful," the GAO investigators conclude.
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Title Annotation:National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Earth Science
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 14, 1992
Words:336
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