About the HEASARC: HEASARC Overview: A Brief History > Relevance to NASA's Strategic Plan

A Brief History of the HEASARC

The HEASARC was established by NASA at its Goddard Space Flight Center, with Dr. Nick White as its director, in November 1990. It was the first of several wavelength-specific NASA science archive research centers. The motivation for these centers was to create an environment that could sustain archival data in usable form, after the mission that obtained these data ended. A crucial part of this new approach was to co-locate the archive with scientists actively undertaking research, connecting the data holdings with the necessary science expertise. It was also anticipated that a multi-mission approach to the archive would lead to cost savings for future missions by reusing software and archive resources.

thumbnail of relationship between HEASARC and other archives
Relationship between HEASARC and other archives. Click to enlarge.
The approach to data archiving pioneered by the HEASARC surpassed these original expectations. The technological advances in computers and mass storage over the past decade have helped the HEASARC to keep pace with its increasing data holding, within a relatively modest fixed budget. The dedicated research scientists and support staff are essential elements. The HEASARC success has been recognized by the subsequent establishment of Infra-red (IRSA), UV/optical (MAST) and Cosmic Microwave Background (LAMBDA) counterparts modeled along similar lines. Together with the Astrophysics Data System (ADS) and the NED/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), these four "active archive centers" plus the "deep archive" at the NSSDC now form the hub of the NASA (cosmic) astrophysics data infrastructure.

The HEASARC was selected as the first wavelength specific archive center because of the then imminent ROSAT, CGRO, ASCA, and RXTE missions. These missions each have a unique complementary capability that could only be fully exploited if the data were easily combined within a single archive. Another concern at that time was that the data from several high energy astrophysics missions from the 1980s and 1970s were on the verge of being lost. These activities dominated the majority of the first ten years of the HEASARC's life. Since then, the HEASARC has provided access to data from a number of operational missions, including the Chandra, XMM-Newton, HETE-2, INTEGRAL, Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer, and Suzaku missions.

In the future, the HEASARC will archive data from other missions, either just launched or scheduled for launch in the coming years. These include: the Fermi (formerly GLAST, launched mid-2008) and NuSTAR (to be launched in 2011) missions.

In the summer of 1999, with NASA HQ concurrence, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics became a partner in the HEASARC organization. The primary objective of this partnering is to bring together the strengths and experience of both organizations to provide the best possible HEASARC service.

In the summer of 2008, the HEASARC merged with NASA's cosmic microwave background archive LAMBDA (Legacy Archive for Microwave Background Data Analysis). The expanded HEASARC's data holdings thus now include data from WMAP, COBE, and SWAS.


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Last modified: Tuesday, 05-Mar-2013 15:24:58 EST