NASA Releases a Massive Online Archive: 140,000 Photos, Videos & Audio Files Free to Search and Download

Last sum­mer, astronomer Michael Sum­mer wrote that, despite a rel­a­tive­ly low pro­file, NASA and its inter­na­tion­al part­ners have been “liv­ing Carl Sagan’s dream for space explo­ration.” Sum­mers’ cat­a­logue of dis­cov­er­ies and ground­break­ing experiments—such as Scott Kelly’s year­long stay aboard the Inter­na­tion­al Space Station—speaks for itself. But for those focused on more earth­bound con­cerns, or those less emo­tion­al­ly moved by sci­ence, it may take a cer­tain elo­quence to com­mu­ni­cate the val­ue of space in words. “Per­haps,” writes Sum­mers, “we should have had a poet as a mem­ber of every space mis­sion to bet­ter cap­ture the intense thrill of dis­cov­ery.”

Sagan was the clos­est we’ve come. Though he nev­er went into space him­self, he worked close­ly on NASA mis­sions since the 1950s and com­mu­ni­cat­ed bet­ter than any­one, in deeply poet­ic terms, the beau­ty and won­der of the cos­mos. Like­ly you’re famil­iar with his “pale blue dot” solil­o­quy, but con­sid­er this quote from his 1968 lec­tures, Plan­e­tary Explo­ration:

There is a place with four suns in the sky — red, white, blue, and yel­low; two of them are so close togeth­er that they touch, and star-stuff flows between them. I know of a world with a mil­lion moons. I know of a sun the size of the Earth — and made of dia­mond. There are atom­ic nuclei a few miles across which rotate thir­ty times a sec­ond. There are tiny grains between the stars, with the size and atom­ic com­po­si­tion of bac­te­ria. There are stars leav­ing the Milky Way, and immense gas clouds falling into it. There are tur­bu­lent plas­mas writhing with X- and gam­ma-rays and mighty stel­lar explo­sions. There are, per­haps, places which are out­side our uni­verse. The uni­verse is vast and awe­some, and for the first time we are becom­ing a part of it.

Sagan’s lyri­cal prose alone cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of mil­lions. But what has most often made us to fall in love with, and fund, the space pro­gram, is pho­tog­ra­phy. No mis­sion has ever had a res­i­dent poet, but every one, manned and unmanned, has had mul­ti­ple high-tech pho­tog­ra­phers.

NASA has long had “a trove of images, audio, and video the gen­er­al pub­lic want­ed to see,” writes Eric Berg­er at Ars Tech­ni­ca. “After all, this was the agency that had sent peo­ple to the Moon, tak­en pho­tos of every plan­et in the Solar Sys­tem, and launched the Hub­ble Space Tele­scope.”

Until the advent of the Inter­net, only a few select, and unfor­get­table, images made their way to the pub­lic. Since the 1990s, the agency has pub­lished hun­dreds of pho­tos and videos online, but these efforts have been frag­men­tary and not par­tic­u­lar­ly user-friend­ly. That changed this month with the release of a huge pho­to archive140,000 pic­tures, videos, and audio files, to be exact—that aggre­gates mate­ri­als from the agency’s cen­ters all across the coun­try and the world, and makes them search­able. The visu­al poet­ry on dis­play is stag­ger­ing, as is the amount of tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion for the more tech­ni­cal­ly inclined.

Since Sum­mers laud­ed NASA’s accom­plish­ments, the fraught pol­i­tics of sci­ence fund­ing have become deeply con­cern­ing for sci­en­tists and the pub­lic, pro­vok­ing what will like­ly be a well-attend­ed march for sci­ence tomor­row. Where does NASA stand in all of this? You may be sur­prised to learn that the pres­i­dent has signed a bill autho­riz­ing con­sid­er­able fund­ing for the agency. You may be unsur­prised to learn how that fund­ing is to be allo­cat­ed. Earth sci­ence and edu­ca­tion are out. A mis­sion to Mars is in.

As I perused the stun­ning NASA pho­to archive, pick­ing my jaw up from the floor sev­er­al times, I found in some cas­es that my view began to shift, espe­cial­ly while look­ing at pho­tos from the Mars rover mis­sions, and read­ing the cap­tions, which casu­al­ly refer to every rocky out­crop­ping, moun­tain, crater, and val­ley by name as though they were tourist des­ti­na­tions on a map of New Mex­i­co. In addi­tion to Sagan’s Cos­mos, I also began to think of the col­o­niza­tion epics of Ray Brad­bury and Kim Stan­ley Robinson—the cor­po­rate greed, the apoc­a­lyp­tic wars, the his­to­ry repeat­ing itself on anoth­er plan­et….

It’s easy to blame the cur­rent anti-sci­ence lob­by for shift­ing the focus to plan­ets oth­er than our own. There is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the mutu­al­ly assured destruc­tion of cli­mate sci­ence denial­ism or nuclear esca­la­tion. But in addi­tion to map­ping and nam­ing galax­ies, black holes, and neb­u­lae, we’ve seen an intense focus on the Red Plan­et for many years. It seems inevitable, as it did to the most far-sight­ed of sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers, that we would make our way there one way or anoth­er.

We would do well to recov­er the sense of awe and won­der out­er space used to inspire in us—sublime feel­ings that can moti­vate us not only to explore the seem­ing­ly lim­it­less resources of space but to con­serve and pre­serve our own on Earth. Hope­ful­ly you can find your own slice of the sub­lime in this mas­sive pho­to archive.


via the Cre­ators Project

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Icon­ic 1968 “Earth­rise” Pho­to Was Made: An Engross­ing Visu­al­iza­tion by NASA

NASA Releas­es 3 Mil­lion Ther­mal Images of Our Plan­et Earth

NASA Its Soft­ware Online & Makes It Free to Down­load

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • ian Balaban says:

    Bit dis­ap­point­ing to find that when linked to FB the pho­to cho­sen to illus­trate the pletho­ra of amaz­ing images from years of stratos­pher­ic and space explo­ration, includ­ing images of deep space from Hub­ble, are ignored only for a CGI impres­sion to be used, poor show. Not that it isn’t pur­dy or accu­rate­ly rep­re­sents cur­rent cos­mo­log­i­cal thought, but it’s still not an image cap­tured from direct obser­va­tion

  • Amanda says:

    A good friend of mine rec­om­mend­ed Hen­ry Clark Hack­er to me when I had issues with my part­ner, he start­ed act­ing sus­pi­cious and was on his phone at odd hours & always act­ing strange. I con­tact­ed Hen­ry hack­er and he remote­ly hacked into his device grant­i­ng me total access to his device with­out him know­ing. I was shocked and over­whelmed that I could read his texts, see pic­tures, emails and all that. This hack­er is hands down the best I’ve hired. Con­tact him on email : Hen­ryclar­keth­i­cal­hack­er @ g mail com, I rec­om­mend him to every­one read­ing this post.

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