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Past Archiving Practices and Changing Needs Microgravity research has been identified as a distinct spaceflight activity within NASA's space science and applications programs since the mid-1970s. Some of the first microgravity experiments and low- gravity demonstrations were conducted by astronauts aboard the Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft. Early materials-processing spaceflight activities carried out under the auspices of the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) led to the first recovery of microgravity spaceflight data and samples. These early experiments and demonstrations produced processed materials and biological samples as well as a wide range of data, including temperatures, pressures, and other physical measurements. The data were recorded in a variety of formats such as photographs, video tape, and cinefilm. Electronic data were sent to MSFC by telemetry or delivered there post-flight, often in the form of magnetic tape. Principal investigators (PIs) who participated in early microgravity spaceflight activities submitted experiment implementation plans to NASA, the purposes of which were to describe their proposed flight experiments and their anticipated post-flight analyses. After being given a specified period--usually 1 year--for post-flight data analysis, PIs prepared their final report, including a description of the disposition of the data and the microgravity samples. Unused portions of flight samples were to be returned to MSFC, cataloged by the archivist, and treated as "space artifacts." Scientific results from individual spaceflight experiments usually were published in the form of NASA technical memoranda and as peer- reviewed journal articles. Such publications were tracked through a bibliographic archive also assembled and maintained at the Space Science Laboratory at MSFC. Summaries of experiments performed on the early microgravity missions were published by NASA as a series of Microgravity Materials Processing technical memoranda. Publication as a NASA technical memorandum of the combined scientific results of multi-investigator spaceflight missions continues to the present day.1 Descriptive information on microgravity experiments and missions, accumulated by NASA and its investigators through 1990, began to be archived several years ago at MSFC. This set of experiment descriptions, originally a PC-based flat file with bibliographic references, was created by a NASA staff member at MSFC and then brought to its current status with the assistance of a contractor. This database has now been ported to the World Wide Web and renamed MICREX. The MICREX database is a useful source of historical microgravity information. Were the MICREX database updated to include descriptions and bibliographic information for all the microgravity experiments conducted after 1990, its value as a historical record would be greatly enhanced. As NASA's microgravity research program expanded and matured beyond the early years, entirely new scientific components were added to microgravity research beyond the original emphasis on materials processing. For example, the growth of macromolecular crystals, low-temperature physics, fluid dynamics, combustion science, and the integration of international payloads were all gradually added. These new science activities have vastly complicated the requirements for archiving samples and data. For example, protein crystals cannot be archived because they degrade rapidly, and so a principal component of the archived data would be the x-ray diffraction data collected from such crystals. These data, when compared with similar data collected from laboratory-grown crystals, provide the primary means of analyzing the results of the protein crystal growth experiments conducted in microgravity. By contrast, mid-deck or glovebox microgravity experiments often yield photographic film and video tape data. These data are usually retained by the responsible NASA center, and the PI is provided the first copy. International experiments, which are becoming more frequent, further complicate the archiving of data and samples because of the need for data sharing and negotiated sharing of resources and responsibilities among the participating national organizations. Experience has also shown that the methods employed in using, tracking, and returning space-processed materials are not uniform among the world's space agencies and PIs collaborating on international microgravity research. Contributing to the complications in the archiving of microgravity spaceflight results from international experiments is the
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fact that the lines of authority and the rules and responsibilities governing non-U.S. PIs, their national funding sources, and the space agencies that develop and support their space facilities are usually different from those for U.S. microgravity investigators. 1 See, for example, NASA Technical Memorandum 4283, 1991, "Microgravity Science and Applications Bibliography," 1990 revision, Washington, D.C.; NASA Technical Memorandum 4348, 1991, "Microgravity Science and Applications Bibliography," 1991 revision, Washington, D.C.' and NASA Technical Memorandum 4469, 1993, "Microgravity Science and Applications Program Tasks and Bibliography for FY 1992," Washington, D.C.