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NASA to Digitize Greatest Moments in Space

NASA and Internet Archive of San Francisco on Thursday announced plans to digitally scan, archive and manage thousands if not millions of still photos, films and videos documenting the entire history of American space exploration.

NASA said all the images will be made available through a single, searchable archive developed by Internet Archive. In the first year of what's now a five-year commitment, Internet Archive will consolidate more than 20 major imagery collections.

Paul Hickman, a spokesman at Internet Archive, said the collections will feature images captured during major NASA projects ranging from the Apollo program's quest for the moon to recent still photos and videos collected during various Space Shuttle missions.

"We've been working with them for some time to make this happen," Hickman said. "Whatever NASA has, we're interested in putting up there and making it accessible to everyone."

When the archive is launched it will be available on both organizations' Web sites.

NASA, in its release, said Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization dedicated to digitally documenting the Internet, was selected through a "competitive process" and that no NASA funds will be spent on the project.

"Making NASA's important scientific and space exploration imagery available and easily accessible online to all is a service of tremendous value to America," said NASA spokesman Robert Hopkins in a statement.

Those anxious to view behind-the-scene pictures before and after Alan Shepherd became the first American in space in May 1961 will have to be patient. Internet Archive expects to spend the entire first year consolidating NASA's 20-plus imagery collections. Existing digital images will be added to the archive in the second year. In the third year, NASA and Internet Archive will take on the daunting task of identifying which analog images should be scanned and added to the Web sites.

NASA said the imagery might eventually grow to include audio files, printed documents and computer presentations generated since the agency's inception in 1958.

The NASA announcement comes on the heels of a new service from Google designed to give better access to heavenly views.

On Wednesday, Google unveiled a new service called Sky that lets users view increasingly detailed images of hundreds of millions of stars and galaxy from their Web browser.