The NASA Datanauts come from a variety of backgrounds: STEM, computer science, digital media, public health, economics—you name it. But the one thing they all have in common is a passion for NASA data! 

There’s no denying that NASA data are the coolest of all the U.S. federal agencies—although I might be biased—but it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to tracking down those data. The first watercooler chat of the fall season is a tour around several key sources of NASA data, including the Open Data Catalog on data.nasa.gov.

The chat started with a brief overview of Project Open Data, the U.S. Government’s initiative that answers a federal mandate to make open source data more easily discoverable and accessing. Project Open Data dictates what metadata—data about data—needs to captured about each dataset in an agency’s data catalog.

The star of this watercooler was the NASA Open Data Catalog on data.nasa.gov, which maintains access to over 32,000 NASA datasets! The catalog allows users to filter data by categories, such as aeronautics or earth science, and sort by popularity or update date. Clicking the source link or the file format icon allows users to directly download or access the data files. Another handy tip: be on the lookout for README or other text files to learn more about the dataset! 

If you want to explore and play with NASA data at your leisure, check out:

·      Data.nasa.gov: NASA’s Open Data Catalog

·      Code.nasa.gov: Open source software catalog

·      Api.nasa.gov: A list of NASA’s application programming interfaces (API)

·      Images.nasa.gov: NASA’s primary image library

·      PDS.nasa.gov: NASA’s Planetary Data System, an archive of scientific data from NASA planetary missions, astronomical observations, and laboratory experiments

·      Earthdata.nasa.gov: Massive earth science data archive.

A whopping 36 participants attended this inaugural chat, including many of the newest class! Datanauts also leveraged the meeting’s chat feature to much avail, asking questions about how to download files from various sources, how to infer the file type before downloading it—handy if the file is particularly large—and pointing out several NASA datasets that are hosted on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.

A great reference came from Datanaut Karen Lopez (2016 Class) on NASA’s AWS data: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/process-earth-science-data-on-aws-with-nasa-nex/.

Datanaut Daniela Vasquez (2017 Spring Class) shared another Datanaut’s (Julia Silge, 2016 Class) work on text mining NASA metadata: https://github.com/juliasilge/nasanotebooks/blob/master/nasametadata.Rmd.

This watercooler chat marks the start of a pretty full watercooler line-up! Stay tuned for a series of chats about R, Git and GitHub, other NASA data archives and how to use them, and more!


About Veronica

Ronnie has been enthusiastically showcasing NASA data as a member of NASA's Open Data team since 2013. She supports NASA's open source efforts by helping to curate and administrate datasets on NASA's Open Data Portal and Open Source Code Catalog, managing citizen and internal requests for NASA data, contributing to the Space Data Daily Open NASA blog, teaching Datanauts courses, and coordinating logistics and data support for the International Space Apps Challenge hackathons.