This Massive Online NASA Gallery Is Filled With Astronomical Eye Candy

Over 100,000 images of pure, unmitigated space science.

Jun 18 2015, 9:30am

The NASA Images website. Credit: Luna Imaging

Space is incredibly photogenic, which is why NASA has always made sure to take plenty of pictures of it. But because each NASA subsite operates its own online photo galleries, the images are spread across many pages instead of in one centralized, searchable hub.

Yesterday, that all changed with the launch of NASA Images, a sleek, user-friendly database of over 100,000 pictures representing over 70 different NASA collections. The new mega-gallery is run by the software company Luna Imaging, which specializes in setting up public digital archives.

According to the company's blog, the newly launched collection brings "the complexity of NASA's multi-organizational imaging content under one unified interface." In other words, sorting through NASA's massive image catalog is now much less of a pain in the ass.

Given that there are dozens of NASA subsites—each with their own galleries, data fields, and content formats—creating this collated version was no easy feat. "The challenge was to get a bunch of different images and a bunch of different data formats to work together in a single, searchable collection," Robert Amesbury of Luna Imaging told me over email.

Apollo 11 bootprint picture. Credit: NASA

"We had a previous version of this site that was created in 2007 in collaboration with the Internet Archive," he said. "[H]owever, that collection used a different legacy version of our software and eventually came down in 2012."

Typically, when Amesbury and his colleagues work with institutions to build these comprehensive galleries, their primary role is to provide the software. This was the case with another impressive database that went public last year, which included 900,000 images from the NYC Municipal Archives.

But with the NASA project, Luna is trying its hand at operating its own digital galleries. "Usually we aren't the ones launching collections," said Amesbury. "The NASA Images site is kind of the first collection that we completely control and manage."

The collection is packed with photographs of space festivals, deep space, Apollo Program milestones, and a wide variety of graphs, charts, and other visual research data. There are even some images that predate NASA itself, if you search for the agency's predecessor NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics).

The NACA Lewis softball team, 1952. Credit: NASA

According to Amesbury, users seem to be most entranced by the Great Images in NASA and the Spacesuit and Spacewalk History collections at the moment, but the traffic may change as more people gravitate towards this database.

Regardless, it's definitely satisfying to see NASA's vast trove of pictures, which has hitherto been scattered across dozens of websites, finally united under one digital roof.