It is impossible to put a value on some types of data. How do you value it? What makes it “invaluable?”
- Is it determined by calculating the cost to simply recreate the data?
- Is it determined by its importance to a person, an organisation, a community or the world and what its loss would represent?
- Or is it calculated by the potential and opportunities that this data may provide now and in the future?
A perfect example of data that fits into the category of “invaluable” is scientific data recorded by NASA on the moon during the Apollo lunar missions in the late 1960’s. Tape Ark are privileged to be custodians of some of this “invaluable” data which belong to Australian Physicist and former NASA Principal Investigator Professor Brian J. O’Brien, who invented the Dust Detector Experience (DDE) and other experiments while working with NASA and RICE University in the late 1960’s. This one-of-a-kind data is the only non-theoretical data relating to lunar dust and covers many months of measurements following the departure of the Apollo 11 crew.
The “value” of this data was a topic for discussion during meetings with scientists at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST) in April when Tape Ark CEO and Founder Guy Holmes travelled with Professor O’Brien to Beijing to meet with representatives from CAST and China National Space Administration (CNSA). They would like to know more about the data and Professor O’Brien’s research from these experiments to assist in their future endeavours.
The Chinese have an ambitious schedule for space exploration in the next decade, having already completed two phases of their Chinese Lunar Exploration Program with the third phase due to launch next year and the final phase in the early 2020’s which will include mankind returning to the lunar surface once again. There are also plans for a permanent Chinese space station in the near future.
Data that may influence the success of these missions – in particular how lunar dust particles may or may not compromise the success of missions to the lunar surface – cannot be dismissed or ignored. This data is also important for planning missions to Mars and beyond. It is inarguably unique and valuable data. But how would we value it?
- Is it the cost of previous missions to the Moon that created the data?
- Is it the cost of the failure of future missions to the Moon?
- Does public perception and PR have a value in this also?
- How much is scientific value and how much is cultural or historic value?
While lunar exploration is one thing, the very same principals apply to exploration data from other industries as it relates to mining or oil and gas. It is very expensive data to acquire, is very difficult to replace if lost, and has huge opportunity costs associated with it.