When the Internet came along in the 1990s, like a lot of government agencies, NASA kind of scratched its head and wondered what to make of all this freely shared information. But unlike a lot of other agencies, NASA had a trove of images, audio, and video the general public wanted to see. After all, this was the agency that had sent people to the Moon, taken photos of every planet in the Solar System, and launched the Hubble Space Telescope.
So each of the NASA field centers—there are 10 of them—began digitizing their photo archives and putting them online. Johnson Space Center in Houston, for example, had thousands of images of space shuttle astronauts training and flying in space. Kennedy Space Center had launch photos. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory had planets, rings, comets, and more. Unfortunately, these images were spread across dozens of NASA.gov sites, with no good way to search the different databases.