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Ongoing Open Government Activities
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NASA Records Management

Managing NASA's Records


this signifies a fact sheet with 'transparency.'
transparency |
this signifies a fact sheet with 'participation.'

Records document all aspects of NASA's business-its organizations, policies, decisions, achievements, and operations. Documented records-contained on paper, micrographics, and audiovisual and electronic media-are managed as information resources. Information in the form of records is a critical resource necessary to assure the success of the Space program and preserve its history. The objectives of NASA records management are to:

  • Make current and inactive records available for employee use.
  • Preserve significant records for future engineers and our Nation's history.
  • Legally dispose of all other records.
Digital Archiving and Partnerships

Photo of an Ad for Records Management NASA partners with Internet Archive to archive digital imagery

NASA has implemented an agreement with the non-profit Internet Archive (IA) whereby IA manages an Internet site, nasaimages.org, to provide free access and downloads of NASA still photography, video and film, including High Definition. Therefore, in essence, IA serves as custodian of much of NASA's current and legacy digital imagery records. In addition, IA will help digitize NASA's historically significant, analog images for inclusion on the Web site, enabling digital archiving with the National Archives and greater public access to these records via the IA Website.

Strictly on its own initiative, IA recently began to capture NASA's publicly posted social media content. NASA is considering exploration of how this activity might be leveraged for records management purposes.

Records Management Training Course

Photo of an Ad for Records Management Mandatory Civil Servant Course on Records Management and an awareness campaign

Since 2008, NASA Civil Servants have been required to take records management training courses through SATERN, NASA's online training center. The training covers how to identify records that must be archived, transfer records to the records management system, and find additional resources for help. NASA has also opened the training to contractors, allowing broader access to the material. More advanced records management training courses are available to employees who wish to learn more, covering long-term storage of records as well as ways in which the records are released to the public or archived.


Appropriate management of NASA records is vital to the future success of the Agency as well as for recording many aspects of our nation's history. Through close collaboration with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), NASA works diligently to ensure that records are maintained in an appropriate manner per issued directives. Items of significant historical meaning are transferred to the NARA for permanent storage, while other records are kept for a prescribed number of years and made available to NASA employees for research before being appropriately destroyed.

Maintaining appropriate records is a responsibility of every employee. Consequently, we created a mandatory training program for all civil servants, and recommended to contractors, to ensure everyone understands his or her responsibilities and the procedures for appropriately keeping and disposing of records. Additionally, we instituted a NASA-wide awareness campaign with promotional posters and information to infuse this message into our culture.

Electronic records have brought us a new era of records management. While electronic records make many tasks easier and more efficient, they also present a difficult challenge for recordkeeping. The trainings ensure employees know proper management practices for both electronic and physical records.

Via successive Agency-wide data calls through the OCIO during FY07 and FY08, the Agency built an inventory of more than 3,000 electronic systems and applications. Upon analysis with of the systems, 1,330 were found to contain true records that were subsequently categorized into 54 subject categories drawn from NASA's Agency Filing Scheme. We have ensured the existence retention schedules for records in 95 percent of the systems with a projected completion date of June 30, 2010.

We are participating in NARA's Electronic Records Archives (ERA) Pilot Phase 2. This activity tests agencies' capability to conduct records management business with NARA electronically through their ERA. We will request new retention schedule approvals and transfer records ownership to NARA via ERA.

How This Fits into Open Government

Effective management of records increases transparency and opportunities for collaboration between various NASA centers, contractors, and public institutions. Leveraging existing resources to enable quicker and easier access to existing records and ensuring records-management processes are followed enables the agency to encourage public dissemination of its data and its capture for use by future generations.

Goals related to Open Government

  • Three Months
    • Complete electronic records schedules for records in the remaining 5 percent systems and submit to NARA for approval.
      v1.5 Status Update: Schedules are complete for 4.9% of the remaing records. However, they are still undergoing internal review. This goal should be completed by the six month milestone.
    • Participate in NARA's ERA Pilot Phase 2.
      v1.5 Status Update: NASA personnel have completed training in the Electronic Records Archhive system and have initiated transfers of serverl permenant records to the National Archives. NARA has acnowledged NASA for having some of the most substantive and valuable feedback received thus far
    • Participate in NARA's Web 2.0 Study of agencies' use of social media technologies.
      v1.5 Status Update: NASA employees and contractors responded to NARA questionaaires and interviews on the Agency’s use of Web 2.0 technologies and cloud computing. NASA personnel also provided feedback to NARA on its draft guidance for agencies on cloud computing and records issues.
  • Six Months
    • Update NASA Records Management public website to direct the public to the NASA FOIA process for obtaining NASA records not publicly available.
    • Cooperate with NARA on any ERA pilot activity follow-up.
  • One Year
    • Work with NARA Electronic Records working group to understand potential improvements other agencies and organizations have implemented in their respective records management processes.
    • Continue use of ERA for conducting records management transactions, including transfer or NASA records to this agency charged with the capturing and preserving Federal government records for future generations.
  • Two Years
    • Evaluate suitability of NARA working group recommendations, implement, if feasible, improved records management processes.

Useful Links

  1. NASA Records Management - NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 1440.6H
  2. NASA Records Retention Schedule - NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 1441.1D
  3. National Archives Records Management Handbook