NASA CIO's Open Data Thing Is Still Screwed Up

Keith's note: In my 27 March 2021 posting about yet another mess at the Chief Information Office "The NASA CIO OpenNASA Website Has Expired - Further" (updated on 19 April 2021) I documented how out of date the NASA CIO's website on open data was. This is what it looked like on 23 April 2021 - showing an update of 2 April 2021 and a responsible official who left NASA in 2018. Well, it looks like they read NASAWatch and have been busy after allowing the site to sit out of date for several years. This happened mere days after this was mentioned on NASAWatch. What a coincidence.

The new site says "Data.nasa.gov is the dataset-focused site of NASA's OCIO (Office of the Chief Information Officer) open-innovation program. There are also API.nasa.gov and Code.nasa.gov for APIs and Code respectively. Open.nasa.gov is the central page for open-innovation sites and acts as as a home for the datanauts program, which is a public outreach program where members of the public work with NASA datasets." What is weird is that there is no longer a "Open.nasa.gov" page - unless you search the Internet Archive (as I did above). But NASA still refers to it as if it exists.

Interestingly if you go to the old address of https://open.nasa.gov/ you get redirected to a site labelled http://data.nasa.gov which instantly redirects you again to a site outside of NASA's fire walled web service https://nasa.github.io/data-nasa-gov-frontpage/. https://nasa.github.io/ is the site hosting the new (old) open.nasa.gov. GitHub is a company. It is not a government agency, non-profit, educational institution.

To be certain GitHub is a popular resource that provides value but, again, it is not a government agency and it is outside NASA's firewall - and thus it is outside NASA's IT security reach. Why is NASA using offsite web hosting services - especially the CIO? The directive issued by Jim Bridenstine exactly 2 years ago in 2019 sought to consolidate a swarm of NASA websites into a more focused collection. But the CIO - one of the offices charged with the implementation of this website reboot - has decided to create new resources outside of NASA's direct control.

The new site mentions "NASA Datanauts" but has no link. If you Google "NASA datanauts" it sends you to a dead link that redirects you to the main https://nasa.github.io/data-nasa-gov-frontpage/ page. If you use Google again and scroll down you will find this page - at GitHub - https://github.com/NASADatanauts that uses this link https://open.nasa.gov/explore/datanauts which sends you back to the https://nasa.github.io/data-nasa-gov-frontpage/ main page - again.

In fact if you scroll down the main page you will see "open.nasa.gov More information about all open-innovation sites like code.nasa.gov and data.nasa.gov. Information about datanauts, a problem that lets the public collaborate with nasa. Information about federal open-data mandates that apply to NASA." and that open.nasa.gov link simply sends you back to the top of the page that you are already on. And if you open the pull down menu at the top of the page for "Open Innovation Sites" and click on open.nasa.gov ... well you get the idea. So ... we have an old fashioned series of self-referential DO-loops here. Remember, this is a NASA Chief Information Office website - representing the best IT on Earth.

Is GitHub a more secure place to place these NASA data resources than anything NASA can provide? That sounds rather pathetic. Or is NASA unable to provide the data hosting capabilities that GitHub offers? Also rather pathetic. Or is this cheaper? OK, the cost issue might make some sense. So, does NASA buy this web hosting service from GutHub? Or do they have some sort of MOU or Space Act Agreement with GitHub? I went to the NASA Current Space Act Agreements page and could not find any SAA or agreement between NASA and GitHub.

And then there is the @openNASA Twitter account last updated 26 November 2018. Wow NASA CIO is really keeping its online presence current.

There is a bigger issue here. I have been told by NASA PAO, SMD, HEOMD and other parts of NASA that it is difficult - if not impossible - for NASA websites, Twitter accounts, etc. to link to external websites - because the CIO and NASA lawyers said so. They claim that there is a formal NASA policy governing this sort of thing - yet no one at NASA has ever provided me with a copy of the agency's formal policy on this matter. When PAO answers they send emails with words someone in another office made up 10 minutes earlier claiming that there is a formal policy.

Yet the CIO has now vended one of its own websites totally outside of NASA - and directly links to it. Will the overall agency web redesign ignore this offsite website or bring it back inside NASA's firewall? If it stays outside of NASA's direct control and IT security then NASA agencies will not be allowed to link to their own datasets since they are hosted on an external site - or so their murky web policies would suggest.

I'd ask the CIO to explain this but they have ignored every request I have made for years - so I doubt that they will start to do so now. But, giving credit where credit is due, they did fix something that was very broken. But it is rather pathetic - and telling - that it took a posting by a senior citizen on a blog, written while sitting in his basement, to bring this issue to the attention of NASA such that it was fixed (if only partially). Again, this CIO represents the most advanced space agency on the planet.

- The NASA CIO OpenNASA Website Has Expired, earlier post (27 March 2021)
- The NASA CIO OpenNASA Website Has Expired - Further, earlier post (19 April 2021)

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on May 10, 2021 3:20 PM.

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