About the PDS


The Planetary Data System (PDS) is an archive of data products from NASA planetary missions, which is sponsored by NASA's Science Mission Directorate. We actively manage the archive to maximize its usefulness, and it has become a basic resource for scientists around the world.

All PDS-produced products are peer-reviewed, well-documented, and easily accessible via a system of online catalogs that are organized by planetary disciplines.

PDS technology has lowered both the cost and risk for large archives through online storage and tools. We use standards for describing and storing data that are designed to enable future scientists who are unfamiliar with the original experiments to analyze the data, using a variety of computer platforms, with no additional support. These standards (PDS Standards Reference and Planetary Science Data Dictionary) address the data structure, description contents, media design, and a set of terms.

The PDS is currently operating under a Charter (PDF) that was drafted in 2006, and adheres to the following set of high-level requirements that define the characteristics and features of the PDS operational system.

Though PDS does not fund the production of archive data from active missions, we work closely with project teams to help them design well-engineered products that can be released quickly.

While most of our products can be ordered automatically, PDS provides teams of scientists to help users select and understand the data. We also offer special processing for products tailored to the needs of individual users.


PDS Project Management is assigned to the Solar System Exploration Data Services Office at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

PDS is a federation of ten teams geographically distributed around the U.S. Six are science discipline nodes, focusing on Atmospheres, Geosciences, Cartography and Imaging Sciences, Planetary Plasma Interactions, Ring-Moon Systems and Small Bodies. There are two support nodes: the Engineering Node and the Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility Node. Additionally, PDS includes a special function supported by a Radio Science specialist.

Several of the nodes have "sub-nodes" to help with a specific aspect of the node's discipline. Several of the nodes oversee one or more data nodes, established for a short period of time to deliver a specific data collection to the PDS.

Each node is led by an expert in the subject discipline, and each has an advisory group made up of other practitioners of that discipline. Node selections are made every five years under a NASA Research Announcement.

One of the science node leaders is also assigned as the PDS project scientist; this position rotates every few years.

For more information about each node see PDS Organization.