NASA boldly going through the boss's notes

Monday - 7/6/2009, 11:58am EDT

Jacob Keaton

Request for Information: "We do rocketships, but this isn't necessarily our area of expertise."

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

NASA needs help. A lot of help. They need to analyze and catalog notes from the Saturn V rocket and Apollo programs under the direction of Wernher Von Braun.

As the cliché goes, "if they can put a man on the Moon...", or as Jacob Keaton, a program analyst for NASA's Space Operations, puts it, "We do rocketships, but this isn't necessarily our area of expertise."

Keaton says they think they have about 15,000 pages of documents spanning from the early 60's to the early 70's.

"Each of the project managers would send a note to Dr. Von Braun every week on what they did that week," says Keaton. "Von Braun would read them over the weekend and handwrite his thoughts on them and send them back and they'd be posted around the offices and that's more or less how the Saturn project was managed."

Now for taking the notes and making sense of them.

So far, Keaton tells FederalNewsRadio, he's gotten e-mails from federal agencies, historians, and members of the general public who have seen this sort of thing done on a smaller scale. "A lot of genealogical research is done the same way, so we're hoping to take a lot of their best practices and make sure we come out with a good product on the (other) end."

The notes are both typed and and handwritten. "It's going to be a challenge to pull out the data we're looking for. There's a lot of great lessons learned on what worked/what didn't work that NASA really doesn't want to forget."

NASA's Request for Information is open until the end of August. A huge part of the challenge in responding to the ROI would be that no one really knows what sort of data will eventually be collected.

"To be honest," Keaton tells FederalNewsRadio, "we're not entirely sure what's in these notes. We're really looking forward to finding out."

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On the Web:

NASA - NASA Announces Request For Information On Von Braun Collection (press release)

NASA - Request for Information (pdf)

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