A Brief History of the Space Imagery Center
At the end of the Apollo and Mariner 10 programs (about 1974) it became
apparent that the quantity of imaging data we acquired by our
participation in NASA missions was so great that it was no longer
accessible for research purposes under the then present storage
Conversations with Chuck Sonett, then Director of Lunar and Planetary Laboratory,
led to the conclusion that it was both feasible and desirable to set aside
an area in this building to store and make accessible the lunar and
planetary images we currently possessed and would acquire in the future.
As a result of extensive negotiations with the University administration
(Rosenblatt, Kassander, and Weaver) and NASA (Steve Dwornik, former Chief
of Planetology), it was agreed that the University and NASA would
cost-share the funding to establish the Space Imagery Center; the
University providing the space and funds for its renovation, and NASA
funding the equipment and operating costs.
Initially NASA agreed to provide the salary for a full-time librarian to oversee the daily
operation of the Center. These funds were provided by NASA from April 1976
to July 1979. The initial NASA funding was through a separate grant with
Robert Strom acting as principal investigator. Subsequent NASA funding was, and still is,
provided through a NASA Planetary Geology grant.
When the Space Imagery Center was officially opened in July 1977, Dwornik
was so impressed that he decided other facilities should be established
at strategic locations throughout the country. At this time he negotiated
with Tom Young, then head of OSS at NASA, to fund six other regional
centers. NASA then formed a committee, the Regional Planetary Image
Facilities Advisory Group, to advise NASA on the operation and equipment
needs of the Centers and to coordinate their activities. This committee
consists of the Directors of each facility and the head of the Planetary
Geology and Geophysics program.
At the first meeting of this group (May 30, 1978) the responsibilities of NASA and the Institutions were
established in the form of a Memorandum of Agreement (See attachment 1).
Part of the Institution’s responsibility is to provide at least 1000 sq.
ft. of space, and the funding for a full-time librarian. Therefore, at
this time it became necessary for me to acquire other funds to support
the librarian’s position. This was subsequently accomplished by
negotiations with the administration that led to establishing a new
state-funded position to oversee the daily operations of the Center.
At the present time there are 9 domestic and 8 foreign RPIF’s. The RPIFs
serve a number of functions: 1) they are repositories for lunar and
planetary images, the products derived from these images, and the
ancillary engineering data required to analyze the images, 2) they serve
as research facilities for researchers who use imaging data and products
in their research, 3) they are open to the public for tours and for
assistance in ordering images, 4) they assist the media with information
and pictures to accompany news and magazine articles and books, and 5)
they serve an educational function by conducting tours for school
children, providing materials for teaching at the elementary, middle and
high school level, providing research projects for High school and
University students, and providing teaching materials for University
The benefits of the Space Imagery Center to LPL and the
University are (1) it serves as an attraction to potential students
interested in planetary surfaces, rings or atmospheric dynamics, (2) it
fosters recognition of LPL and the University by providing services to
Arizona residents, the media and U.S. and foreign PIs, and (3) it is a
valuable teaching tool used by many faculty members in this and other
University departments. The Space Imagery Center is an indispensable tool
for our research programs in planetary geology and geophysics. In this
regard it is a research laboratory in every sense of the word, and just
as important to these research programs as the spectroscopy and
geochemistry labs are to other programs.