Historic Data Recovery at Wallops Flight Facility
Making scientific information and research more openly available is an important part of IMPACT’s mission which the Airborne Data Management Group (ADMG) takes seriously. To support this effort and the NASA Airborne Science Program, IMPACT ADMG team members Shelby Bagwell and Ashlyn Shirey recently traveled to Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to find and digitize details of NASA’s P-3 aircraft flights. Working with direction from NASA’s Dr. Melissa Yang Martin, Shelby and Ashlyn scoured four file cabinets of paper documents and shelves of binders to preserve the historical information from P-3 participation in early campaigns from the pre-digital years.
The P-3 has been a crucial asset to the agency’s Earth science research efforts since it was acquired in the early 1990s. Since the beginning, the P-3 has flown in many Arctic and Antarctic campaigns outfitted with many instruments for collecting data for areas of study including meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, and cryospheric research. Moreover, the P-3 was also used to test new airborne and satellite instrumentation. For each of the campaign flights, there is a rich trove of documentation. Campaign and flight details from the 1990s and early 2000s are not digitally available, making it difficult for researchers to access the information. This effort by the ADMG ensures the information will be easier to discover in the future.
Over the course of their trip, Shelby and Ashlyn documented P-3 instrument payload, flight details such as location and duration, scientific objectives, and flight personnel. They also scanned important documents, such as floor plans of the P-3 for each flight or campaign, to ensure instrument placement and connection information is retained.
Shelby explained that having a “road map” of the P-3 from its first NASA campaign flight to its current activities is incredibly valuable in showing the progression of NASA’s research and the variety of instruments flown. Their work helps preserve this historical documentation, particularly for campaigns prior to 2007, for which the majority of information is on paper.
This project appealed to Ashlyn in multiple ways. Asked about her experience, she responds:
I enjoy history, so it was fun being an “archaeologist” for the P-3 and getting to read through and look at pictures for the various campaigns that the P-3 has flown over the decades. It was also interesting to see all the planning and logistics needed for the aircraft to fly in just one campaign, which we don’t see as often in our curation work for ADMG.
Shelby agrees, saying:
The P-3’s flights over the Arctic and Antarctic are interesting! The P-3 had some pretty cool firsts surrounding NASA Antarctic flights. I am always impressed by the variety of the instruments that can be operated on board the P-3 and other aircraft. So many measurements can be taken during a single flight, which is why flight campaigns are so valuable to the Earth science research efforts.
Learn more about the P-3 here.
NASA Airborne Science Program P-3 homepage.
Learn about all ADMG efforts here.
Discover more about P-3 flights on CASEI.