Understanding the planets and small bodies that inhabit our solar system help scientists answer questions about its formation, how it reached its current diverse state, how life evolved on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the solar system, and what characteristics of the solar system lead to the origins of life. Planetary science examines the inner solar system, outer solar system, and small bodies in the solar system. Inner solar system bodies are rocky, unlike the gas and water giant planets of the outer solar system, outer solar system bodies consist of four “gas giants” Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and small bodies in the solar system include comets, asteroids, the objects in the Kuiper Belt and the Oort cloud. Planetary data archives include data on atmospheres, geosciences, cartography and imaging sciences, navigational and ancillary information, planetary plasma interactions, ring-moon systems, small bodies, and other planetary science-related data.

The Planetary Science Points of Contact are Rebecca McCauley Rench and Meagan Thompson.

What is the Planetary Data Ecosystem (PDE)?

NASA defines the PDE as the ad hoc connected framework of activities and products that are built upon and support the data collected by planetary space missions and research programs, which primarily are NASA funded.

The PDE IRB further elaborated on this concept by enumerating the types of information in the PDE and the communities involved.

  • Data returned from space missions and ground-based facilities including observational data, telemetry, and other engineering data, samples, and mission planning documents;
  • Data generated by research and analysis projects including observational data analysis, theoretical research, laboratory results, and Earth analog site field tests; 
  • Data generated by citizen scientists, including participants in observation campaigns, contributors to collaborative citizen-science services, and space enthusiasts; 
  • Standards for planetary science data and metadata; 
  • Software including data processing pipelines, analysis tools, search and browse tools, display tools, and simulation tools;
  • Publications including articles, books, conference abstracts, reports, posters, and presentations; and 
  • Education and communication products including value-added products from missions and facilities (websites, captioned photos, etc.), educational materials, recordings of outreach events, products generated for the media, and unpublished photo and video documentary material gathered for public engagement purposes.

The communities include:

  • Personnel from NASA and other space agencies (themselves containing many different stakeholder groups); 
  • Mission and ground-based facility personnel; 
  • Science researchers, technology innovators, software developers, media professionals, historians, artists, and others who use planetary data in a professional capacity; 
  • Amateurs, enthusiasts, and hobbyists; and 
  • Educators, students at all age levels, and parents of students, in both formal and informal education environments.”

Incomplete History of the Planetary Data Ecosystem​

1963 – USGS Astrogeology Science Center established​
1966 – NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive (NSSDCA) established​
1977 – NASA Regional Planetary Image Facilities (RPIFs) established (sunset in 2020)
1982 – National Academy of Sciences Committee on Data Management and Computation (CODMAC) chartered​
1985 – NASA’s Advanced Multi-Mission Operations System (AMMOS) initially developed​
1989 – NASA Planetary Data System (PDS) established​
1998 – NASA Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS)* established​
2005 – NASA Data Analysis Program (e.g. DDAP, MDAP) established
2014 – NASA Planetary Data Archiving, Restoration, and Tools (PDART) program created​
2014 – Mapping and Planetary Spatial Infrastructure Team (MAPSIT) established​
2016 – The idea of Planetary Data Environment/Ecosystem starts to take hold at NASA HQ​
2021 – Planetary Data Ecosystem (PDE) Independent Review Board (IRB) report​
*Formerly Near-Earth Object Observations Programs (NEOO)​

For general inquiries, please contact hq-pde@mail.nasa.gov.