NASA to merge media archives

Space officials want proposals for a NASA archiving system that would create a one-stop multimedia source for the public.

NASA has more than 115,000 film and video titles and millions of still images, and it wants all of them to be publicly accessible online. NASA seeks a contractor to handle digitization, consolidation, and Internet interface of agency analog, video and graphic imagery. The archive is intended to replace NASA's various disconnected archives.

The space agency does not expect to spend any money outside its operating budget on the project. The successful bidder, rather than being paid by NASA, would have the right to use the material for its own purposes. NASA officials hope that will attract proposals from organizations with experience in archiving, such as Hollywood entities and universities, as well as the usual commercial vendors who bid on government information technology projects of this type.

"If this works out correctly, since it's entrepreneurial, it shouldn't cost the taxpayer anything, except what we'd spend on normal business," said NASA spokesman Doc Mirelson. "The partner would have commercial rights to the use of the images in most cases. There are other uses available beyond public access that could be either educational or commercially or historically viable."

For example, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency worked with the National Archives and the University of Maryland to create a similar database of several million unclassified spy satellite images. The Defense Department has also participated in a similar project.

NASA expects to award a five-year agreement would include an initial two-year period to develop the database, followed by the three-year period for the operation, maintenance and management of the database. There is the potential for a two-year extension on the partnership.

Most of NASA's digitized images date to the1990s, but the agency also wants to digitize images from the pre-space exploration, pre-WWII era, when it was called NACA, the National Aeronautic Committee on Aviation. The older media includes film of Chuck Yeager's 1947 flight that broke the sound barrier.

"I don't want to say the system now is disorganized in the sense that we don't know where stuff is," Mirelson said. "But this makes sense to many organizations to be able to go to one Web site, do one search. What we're shooting for down the road is to have one electric card catalogue."

As the decentralized image archive exists right now, "you sort of have to get more people involved" to find something, he said.

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