Technology Development:

Future Use of NASA's Large Format Camera Is Uncertain

NSIAD-90-142: Published: Jun 6, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 1990.

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David R. Warren
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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) why the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had stored the Large Format Camera (LFC) since its first and only flight in 1984; and (2) possible future LFC uses.

GAO found that: (1) NASA had successfully demonstrated LFC capabilities by showing that high-quality pictures could be produced in space; and (2) NASA acquired high-resolution three-dimensional pictures that aided in the development of photographic interpretation and analysis techniques. GAO also found that NASA: (1) did not find using LFC on the space shuttle to be commercially feasible because of the high costs associated with shuttle missions; (2) lacked acceptable flight patterns for using LFC because of the planned angles of flight for future shuttle missions; (3) had little or no available cargo space on shuttle missions in the near future; and (4) lacked confidence in the market for LFC products. In addition, GAO found that: (1) using LFC on the planned space station did not appear to be a realistic alternative; (2) NASA was not successful in interesting other agencies or private companies in LFC use on the shuttle missions; and (3) NASA had taken actions to protect LFC from environmental deterioration.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA negotiated with private companies interested in using the camera for collecting remote sensing data. However, proposals were determined not to be feasible.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should consider using LFC on an aircraft, such as ER-2.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: NASA is currently evaluating a proposal from the Department of the Interior, in which Interior would display the camera while keeping it in a flight-ready state, rather than transferring it to a museum. NASA expects to resolve the proposal by December 1995.

    Recommendation: If aircraft use is determined not to be feasible, the Administrator, NASA, should consider transferring LFC to a museum, such as the National Air and Space Museum.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration


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