Viking Lander Data

According to the case study mentioned in the 2006 report Mind the Gap http://www.dpconline.org/advocacy/mind-the-gap

“When the US space agency NASA sent two Viking
Landers to Mars in 1975 to find out whether life might
exist on the red planet, it was assumed that the datasets
painstakingly compiled by scientists at the time would be
available for future generations of scientists on magnetic
tape.
Yet, just a few decades later, despite the space agency’s
best efforts to keep the tapes in a climate-controlled
environment, time has left them cracking and brittle.
Furthermore, when scientists attempted to re-use some
of the data in the late 1990s, they found that they could
not decode the formats used. In the end they had to
track down old printouts and retype everything.”

Source: See www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/21/tech/main537308.shtml  (last accessed on 03/01/2006)

From this brief summary it is not clear what really happened. The tapes went “brittle”, that is one reason why the data were not usable. But there is also mentioning of the impossibility to encode the format used. Whatever is meant by that, it could indicate that there was not enough metadata to keep the information understandable for next generations. We could call this a lack of Representation Information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *