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Scientists have known that billions of years ago, Mars and Earth shared many similar planetary conditions, but have yet to understand why the two planets have evolved so differently over time. The launch of the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft marked the first major step in attempting to solve this mystery in twenty years. A joint project of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the MGS Project’s purpose is to obtain information about the surface of Mars, as well as its atmospheric and magnetic properties. This mission critical data is permanently secured on CD\DVD technology and used to learn more about the Earth and to provide valuable information for future NASA missions.

As it orbits Mars, the MGS is equipped with many instruments that are used to gather the atmospheric, magnetic, and surface data scientists are interested in studying. Two of the instruments designed to measure the magnetic attributes of Mars are the Magnetometer (MAG) and the Electron Reflectometer (ER). These two instruments yield a tremendous amount of data that is all transmitted back to the Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). In turn, Raytheon STX Corporation, is one of the companies assisting the laboratory in managing the data and ensuring it’s immunity to damage. Mike Powell, a senior program analyst with Raytheon, is responsible with the daunting task of managing the daily download of mission critical data from the magnetic instruments located on the MGS spacecraft. To put the amount of data being transmitted from the MGS into perspective, it can send out as much as 85,333 bits per second. In contrast, modems on home computers transmit data at an average speed of only 28,800 bits per second.

"Once I realized the enormous amount of data the MAG and the ER would be producing, I knew I needed to find a cost-effective way to process and archive the information,” said Powell. In doing so, Powell sought out the expertise of NetCon, Inc., a value-added reseller that specializes in the design, development, and implementation of technology solutions for government and commercial customers. NetCon also offers a particular expertise in the area of CD\DVD storage and imaging solutions for its customers.

Ultimately, NetCon recommended the installation of the DISC Mercury CD\DVD library for several reasons. "We feel comfortable endorsing the DISC product family because they help us to accomplish our mission better. They have an excellent technical support team and are always on the cutting edge of CD\DVD storage technology,” said Al Sivick, president of NetCon. The Mercury 31 was appropriate for Raytheon’s data management responsibilities in the MGS Project. Its 150 disc capacity (100 gigabyte data storage) meets the demands to handle the tremendous amount of data the MGS Project will yield over the next few years. It was also highly compatible and portable. "We had to have a jukebox that could run off of our Sun server as well as export to both Macintosh and Sun PCs,” said Powell. "The Mercury 31 offered this platform compatibility, gave us the best price for its disc capacity, and a great warranty.” Powell added that the concurrent read/write functionality of the Mercury 31 met the demands for archival management.

National, state and local government offices are following in NASA’s footsteps of implementing CD\DVD library systems. These include: Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Patent Office, U.S. Air Force, Naval Training Facility, and Department of the Navy.


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