NASA image and video library

NASA puts multimedia files on searchable site

NASA uses its 50 years worth of high-quality images, videos and audio files as part of its mission to educate the public on space exploration. But that mission was made more difficult because the multimedia files were being housed in 10 different NASA field centers.

Now, thanks to a partnership with InfoZen, a searchable images.NASA.gov site provides access to 140,000 downloadable images, video and audio files.

“Over the course of a couple of decades, our imagery was scattered over NASA.gov so you would have to likely to have the image that you were looking for,” Rodney Grubbs, NASA’s imagery experts program manager, said.  “It was inefficient for NASA, the taxpayer and frustrating for everyone involved, so we set about a way to solve the problem and create something that was scalable for mobile.” Hosted in Amazon Web Services cloud and using Limelight Network’s content delivery service, the searchable database uses infrastructure as code to support a wide variety of formats for photos, audio and videos.

NASA previously used YouTube to showcase its videos, but some schools block the video channel, making it impossible for teachers to download or show the videos in class. The option of putting downloadable videos on the NASA site also was problematic.

“A lot of folks want to be able to embed videos into their presentations, but up until now, they weren’t able to do that,” Grubbs said.  “In order to be compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, we also had to include a caption file with every video,” he said. “One of InfoZen’s big challenges [was] to make the captions work across multiple versions with different operating platforms, mobile devices and browsers.”

InfoZen used a serverless computing service to run the searchable library, with all search settings stored in the DynamoDB NoSQL service from AWS, company officials said. InfoZen is taking on the responsibility to manage the cloud-based site.

The site also features an application programming interface that automates imagery uploads for NASA and gives members of the public the ability to embed content in their own sites and applications.

While the new site isn’t a comprehensive collection, Grubbs said more imagery and metadata descriptions are being added to the database every day.  “This database isn’t everything that NASA creates, but comes from a larger scope of imagery collected that is relevant to the public or of good quality and interest to the public,” he said.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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