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Lunar e-Library puts space history to work


July 31, 2006 — Its been said that if one were to pile the documents published by NASA during the 1960s Apollo lunar program, that they would reach to the Moon. A new effort by the space agency shrinks that stack to a single DVD, now available to NASA employees and independent researchers.

The Lunar e-Library, as the DVD has been dubbed, is a searchable archive of reports and other resources about the last time we went to the Moon, with the goal from the outset to help those planning our return today.

"Our goal was to identify key lessons learned from Apollo and other lunar missions and shorten research time by putting information at users' fingertips," described Miria Finckenor, an engineer with the Materials and Processes Laboratory at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "We now have a treasure trove of information for designers and engineers working on lunar exploration."

The Lunar e-Library includes 870 complete electronic documents and 230 abstracts pertaining to the Apollo/ Saturn era of space flight. Built around a search engine to easily sort the 1,100 documents by keywords, an index is also included, and advanced searches can be performed by title, author and other criteria.

Though it may be applicable to many different programs in and outside of NASA, the e-Library was developed by and for the Space Environments and Effects Program at Marshall and the Materials and Processes Laboratory.

"We shaped the Lunar e-Library to focus on several topics of interest to the space environments community," said Dr. Dale Ferguson, a scientist in the Environmental Effects Branch. "This DVD will benefit NASA employees and contractors who are studying lunar dust, potential lunar landing sites, radiation and many other aspects of living and working on the Moon."

Among the documents contained within the e-Library is a complete set of the Apollo mission and science reports as well as the Apollo Experience Reports, which together account for the activities of each crew and their payloads. Other files cover the Saturn V rockets and Lunar Roving Vehicles, as well as what learned about lunar surface soil and moon rocks.

In addition to Apollo, the DVD also holds data from the Surveyor, Clementine and Lunar Prospector missions, as well as conceptual studies including the 1980s canceled Space Exploration Initiative and the First Lunar Outpost. The e-Library also provides links to and descriptions of websites that in turn host related databases, images and video and oral history interviews.

Sixteen focused interviews were also conducted for the Lunar e-Library addressing a wide variety of topics from Saturn rocket design to the evolution of engines, tracing the path from early missiles to the space shuttle's three main engines. Other interviews focus on aspects of the space environment with particular emphasis on materials durability and dust.

The interviews were conducted with technical and history experts including the Saturn V and Lunar Roving Vehicle archivist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and with the staff at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Marshall's own staff historian, Mike Wright also participated.

The Lunar e-Library is available to NASA and aerospace professionals for free, and can be obtained by filling out forms presented on NASA's website. As a result of export restrictions, this DVD can only be requested by United States citizens living in the country, otherwise permission must first be sought through NASA's Headquarters.

Information presented in this article was first published in Marshall Space Flight Center's employee newspaper, the Marshall Star (Volume 46, No. 44).

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