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NASA Space Media Science

NASA Requests Help With Von Braun's Notes 148

DynaSoar writes "NASA is soliciting ideas from the public on how best to catalog and digitize the collected notes of Wernher von Braun. 'We're looking for creative ways to get it out to the public,' said project manager Jason Crusan. 'We don't always do the best with putting out large sets of data like this.' The PDF notes are those of rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, the first director of NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and are typed with copious handwritten notes in the margin. According to the official request for information, NASA needs ideas on what format to use (PDF), how to index the notes, and how to create a useful database. The unique nature and historical value of the data, literally discovered in boxes six months ago, is what motivated NASA to ask the public for ideas."
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NASA Requests Help With Von Braun's Notes

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  • NASA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dov_0 ( 1438253 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:18AM (#28513657)
    Seems to have a habit of just dumping things in warehouses and forgetting about them.
  • Well, considering they host over 6,000 pdfs [] and the RFI is in PDF with the title of the document being "Microsoft Word - WvB RFI 6-24-09.doc" by Jason Crusan who used Acrobat Distiller 7.0.5(Windows), I think we know what everyone uses at NASA. Fine. I'm not going to bitch about that. Instead I'm going to point out that if you're already dependent on Adobe Acrobat Reader & Microsoft Word being around until the end of time supporting your old doctypes, you might as well release these in PDF from DOC sources too.

    But, if I were doing this: Assuming these are all in images, put the images in whatever format you want and make a generic wiki page for each of them. Then let users log in (NASA fans should pour in) and translate the pages to annotated wiki pages with the footnotes (normally references) being all the side notes that were penciled in. They can categorize them by related missions and maybe even tag them ... you will need at least one or two people on your staff to administrate. Diagrams and drawings will probably need to be cropped and retained as images. Keep those in a lossless format but distribute whatever saves you bandwidth.

    Once that's done, ideally you'd put it in some XML standards based format (ODF or OOXML, yeah, that's another argument to be had) that you will always be able to read even if you have to build your own viewer/converter. Keep these sources indexed and provide for people the rendered PDF/PS/PNG/whocares and then you could probably build scripts to rebuild all from sources if you want. New technology comes out or people want to view them in HTML 5--no problem, just build a neat little XSLT for them.

    As for indexing them, I can tell you one way not to do it. Don't do the thing that curators of classical music did []. Man, that's like speaking another language to me. Arrange the notes by mission or date if you can and any natural titles that arise for the favorites, add to it as an alias.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:48AM (#28514051)

    Call me selfish, but I'd love to search Von Braun's notes for one particular name: my late grandfather worked for him at MSFC for over 30 years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:48AM (#28514057)

    "Please enter proper LaTeX syntax for the following equation..."

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:57AM (#28514161) Homepage

    yes it is. but many whiners here will argue against it.

    The thing is, dont half ass the pdf by simply encapsulating images. they need to do a real OCR on it and separate things out to images that are not typewritten.

    then donate the boxes to the Smithsonian.

    the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of the documents is that it is easily searched. which means all text must be text and not images. Yes that includes his handwriting.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:41AM (#28514751)

    instead of focring people to pay taxes on some project of dubious desirability, they are trying to see if the public has any support for their idea, before they thrust headlong into it.

    government workers should ask the opinion of the taxpayers more often, we are after all , their bosses. i have a lot of respect for the government employees that remember this, and nothing but contempt for those who want to 'play social engineer and tax waster' without regard for what the public thinks.

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:42AM (#28514769)

    Even if NASA did do it itself, "society" would be paying for it anyway...

    Actually, this should be better in two important ways: not only could crowd-sourcing could accomplish the task much more efficiency than $50-grand-space-pen-NASA could to begin with, but also the cost would be distributed across the entire Internet, rather than being shouldered only by American taxpayers! It's a win-win-win* situation, I'd say.

    (* for NASA, and for space geeks, and for taxpayers)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:45AM (#28514799)

    Unfortunately, the notes are full of non-words, like (RTG), SNAP-10A, B70, n.mi
    At least, that what i'm assuming they say, because some of them are rather unreadable. Now, slashdotters may recognise some, but many people won't see the "words"

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford