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Interoperability in planetary research for geospatial data analysis

April 13, 2017

For more than a decade there has been a push in the planetary science community to support interoperable methods for accessing and working with geospatial data. Common geospatial data products for planetary research include image mosaics, digital elevation or terrain models, geologic maps, geographic location databases (e.g., craters, volcanoes) or any data that can be tied to the surface of a planetary body (including moons, comets or asteroids). Several U.S. and international cartographic research institutions have converged on mapping standards that embrace standardized geospatial image formats, geologic mapping conventions, U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) cartographic and metadata standards, and notably on-line mapping services as defined by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). The latter includes defined standards such as the OGC Web Mapping Services (simple image maps), Web Map Tile Services (cached image tiles), Web Feature Services (feature streaming), Web Coverage Services (rich scientific data streaming), and Catalog Services for the Web (data searching and discoverability). While these standards were developed for application to Earth-based data, they can be just as valuable for planetary domain. Another initiative, called VESPA (Virtual European Solar and Planetary Access), will marry several of the above geoscience standards and astronomy-based standards as defined by International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA). This work outlines the current state of interoperability initiatives in use or in the process of being researched within the planetary geospatial community.