NASA Wants Your Ideas for Digitizing Wernher von Braun Notes

By | June 30, 2009

von-braun-sketch1http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2009/06/von-braun-kennedy.jpgNASA is taking the rare step of reaching out to the public for help. The space agency is looking for the best way to analyze and electronically catalog a precious collection of notes that chronicle the early history of the human space flight program.

“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 notes [pdf] are those of rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, the fist director of NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and are typed with copious hand written notes in the margin. According to the official request for information [pdf], NASA needs ideas on what format to use, 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.

“It’s first-hand insight on how management and engineering decisions were made on a real-time basis,” Crusan said. “It’s quite scrawled upon all over the place.”

Von Braun was born in Germany and led the German army’s “rocket team” which developed ballistic missiles. His V-2 missile was used on European targets during World War II. When it became clear to von Braun that Germany was going to lose the war, he surrendered himself, 500 of his best rocket scientists, plans and vehicles to the Allies. The team moved to the United States and worked on missile development for the U.S. Army.

In 1960, rocket development was shifted to NASA where von Braun headed Marshall Spaceflight Center and led the Saturn rocket project. In 1970 he moved to Washington D.C. to lead the strategic planning of the project and in 1972 he retired from NASA.

The details of von Braun’s role in the German army (he received an honorary SS rank from Heinrich Himmler) and his conversion to a NASA pioneer are still being assessed, and his notes are considered a historically valuable source of information about Marshall.

“He was significantly important in the formation of the Apollo program,” Crusan said.

via NASA Wants Your Ideas for Digitizing Rocket Scientist’s Notes | Wired Science | Wired.com.

I once told someone from NASA that I dreamed I met Wernher von Braun. The reply was pretty startling. He said, “If you did, you’d be dead.”  I still have no idea what that means, but it could be a clue to something that no one yet knows.

One thought on “NASA Wants Your Ideas for Digitizing Wernher von Braun Notes

  1. Wernher Krutein

    Hello there, I am the Godson of Wernher von Braun and am intrigued with this project of archiving and cataloging all the papers generated by von Braun. I have created a cataloging system for the whole universe using an intuitive and simple yet comprehensive alphanumeric system. It’s a work that I have been continually upgrading in the past 40 years. I have implemented it into my archive of 800,000 slides and was able to integrate it into my website along with creating my own data entry system software program. I am also a devout space enthusiast, and aerospace participant through my photography. Anyway I feel uniquely qualified to perhaps take on a project of this scope and make it intuitivley available to all that qualify.

    Cataloging philosophies in such a massivly complex vision neccesitates an introspective halt to a frenetic overwhelming profitable attempt to a quick solution. Approaching a project of this scope with brevity would most likely lead to an inevitable consequence of a missed opportunity. My approach in such a complex task is to implement a comprehensive approach using an important tool called “anticipatory design” or in another words “deep thinking”. In a situation such as this, quick answers often lead to massive confusion. I prefer a process of being challenged to kick me out of my “deep thinking” trenches that one will inevitably dig. Anyway I could go on and on about my the possibilities but I really would like to chat with someone about the amazing potential this project presents to the planet.

    I hope to hear from someone. [ Phone # removed. Please use email to protect privacy. – Xeno ]

    Wernher Krutein

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