Shoot for the moon ... or beyond.

Position:IN FOCUS: A Message from the Editors

DO you know where your records are? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) evidently does not. A recent headline declared that NASA has lost original film depicting the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. However, a NASA press release said, it does not consider the 2,000 boxes of missing tapes to be lost; they may be at the Goddard Space Flight Center or at some other location within the NASA archiving center.

Efforts are underway to track them down. NASA officials have issued an appeal for help locating former employees who may know the sequence of the transfer of the boxes, and they are sifting through 30 years of records.

However, if and when it finds them, NASA doesn't know if they'll be accessible. The tapes could be damaged because of improper storage, but even if they are undamaged, NASA may not have the technology that will be needed to view them.

NASA's records management program--or lack thereof--has also been in the news because of its difficulty in finding blueprints and other information needed to aid in the design and construction of the new moon explorer, Orion. Gannett News Service recently reported that efforts to search the Apollo collection have been hampered, in part, because the records were not indexed.

In the normal course of business, an organization's recordkeeping shortcomings may not cause the sort of front pages headlines, rampant blogging, and conspiracy theories that NASA's has, but they can cause many other dire consequences.

In this age of increased litigation and the need for total corporate accountability, an organization's records are valuable only if they can be easily accessed and read. Using the term archive to refer to an organization's storage of records throughout their lifecycle, an article in Computer Technology Review provides criteria for a "mission-critical archive." According to "Is Your...

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