Spacecraft missions are complicated endeavors that result in a wealth of scientific and engineering data. Long after the mission has ended, these data can be extremely useful for later study and discovery. With so many missions over so many years, how can later generations find and make use of these data?
The solution for many NASA missions has been the development of the centralized Planetary Data System (PDS). The PDS is several things: a collection of websites, a search capability, an archive, a database, a learning tool, etc. The PDS Imaging Node is located at http://pds-imaging.jpl.nasa.gov/ and acts as “the curator of NASA’s primary digital image collections from past, present and future planetary missions.” These missions include Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, and many more. Now the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been added to the list, with the HiRISE team releasing our first several months of image data.
What we have released is an archive of the HiRISE Experiment Data Records (EDRs) and Reduced Data Records (RDRs). EDRs are in the *.IMG file format and represent individual CCD channels (remember, there are 14 CCDs in the HiRISE camera and two channels per CCD, for a total of 28 channels). These EDRs are cleaned up, calibrated, stitched together, and mapped to Mars’ geometry, resulting in the RDR products. RDRs are in the *.JP2 and *.LBL formats. JPEG2000 is the technology that enables us to offer our gigantic images to the scientific community and the public in a timely and efficient manner. An observation’s image data are in the *.JP2 file and its meta data are in the detached *.LBL files. To view these products, JPEG2000 compatible software is required (see our site for a list of offerings).
While we have been trying to release up to five captioned images a week for the past few months, the PDS release represents several hundred images, most of them without captions. You can find them using the PDS search capabilities, and you can also find them on the new HiRISE site, unveiled today to coincide with this first PDS release. The redesigned site focuses on the images while providing, hopefully, a more user-friendly interface:
As word gets out about the new site and the PDS release, you may experience some site slowness. Please be patient, and thank you for your interest!