Wednesday, April 3, 2013

They took down NTRS

Back when NASA was testing the X-43, they said something that has stuck in my mind ever since. The X-43 is a scramjet test vehicle. The thing is boosted on a Pegasus to near mach 10, then the scramjet is fired for 10 seconds. Afterwards, the vehicle is not recovered. "The only thing we get back from this mission is data."

When you think about it that way, all the robotic space missions are like that. We just get back data. No artifacts, no samples, just bits. We then assemble those bits back into knowledge back here on the ground. When we talk about the $800M SDO mission, we are spending the $800M to get those bits, so they better be valuable. Furthermore, I paid for those bits so I should have access to them.

The NASA Technical Report Server is where the knowledge collected from those bits go. It is now closed.

They claim that it is due to an ITAR review, and that it will be reopened when that is complete. There are over a million papers on NTRS. That is never going to get the kind of review they are implying.

So: For all those mission that only send back data, the only evidence that we have that they even happened is now gone. We spent $XB a year on NASA, and what we paid for is now locked up. This is a bad precedent. Furthermore, the NASA library is now untrustworthy. We build libraries to hold knowledge, and if they close at random without notice, they fail to serve their purpose.

Similarly, I now don't think that the kernels for reconstructed entry of MSL will ever be released.

This is not a good way to start the day.

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