Mining Lunar Data bolsters space exploration efforts
By Tracy McMahan
Did you help design the lunar rover? Do you remember the first rocket firings here at the Marshall Center? Are you a materials engineer who helped define requirements for the Saturn V? Do you have a stash of historical NASA documents from the Saturn/Apollo era that you would like to move out of the garage but don't want to throw away? If you answered yes to those questions, then the researchers in the Marshall Center's Materials and Processes Environmental Effects Branch want to talk to you. As part of an effort to mine lunar data, a living database is being created through interviews with experts who communicate technical lessons learned.
These interviews, which are archived on video and audiotapes that can be passed down to future generations, are part of the Lunar Data Mining effort sponsored by NASA's Space Environments and Effects Program in the Marshall Space Transportation Programs and Projects Office and the Materials and Processes Laboratory in the Engineering Directorate.
The goal of Lunar Data Mining is to identify useful information and make it easily accessible. "There's so much to be learned from the Saturn/Apollo era – the rationale for certain materials selection, the trade studies to reduce weight, and especially the in-the-field experiences that were never written down," explains Miria Finckenor, a materials engineer in the Materials and Processes Environmental Effects Branch who is overseeing the effort. "This program captures those lessons learned and makes older publications available, so we're not reinventing the wheel."
A key part of the Lunar Data Mining effort is a comprehensive literature review and compilation of information sources. Finckenor and other subject matter experts at Marshall and other NASA field centers are accessing the literature's value and gleaning "nuggets" of information that can be shared with their colleagues to bolster the success of the Vision for Space Exploration.
The final product for the first phase of the Lunar Data Mining effort will be a DVD database accessible to approved NASA and aerospace professionals. It will include hundreds of electronic documents, bibliographies, interviews and Web links — all indexed and organized by categories and cross-referenced. It will provide managers, engineers and scientists easy access to technical information that will assist them in further development of spacecraft systems for lunar missions and beyond. The database entries will help identify what materials and testing will be required to support various Vision products, as well as technology gaps that need to be addressed.
The Lunar Data Mining effort also has support from the historians working at the Marshall Center. "The Marshall history office is glad to support this type of effort. It is imperative that the Marshall Center gather as much technical documentation as possible to support the Vision for Space Exploration," said Mike Wright, Marshall Center historian.
If you would like to be interviewed as part of this project or if you would like to serve as a Subject Matter Expert, please contact Finckenor at 256-544-9244 or at firstname.lastname@example.org