Wednesday, May 07, 2014

ISS Gets a Web-cam! ...and other news

There has been quite a lot going on in the Space News these days. SpaceX's Third ISS Resupply Mission (CRS-3) is well underway. SpaceX has tested their first stage landing capability, both during the CRS-3 Launch and again at their McGregor, TX test facility (See: 1000m test flight) (In case you're wondering, Grasshopper was a mocked-up Falcon-9 first stage, while the new test is being done with an actual Falcon-9 first stage. If you look closely, you can see that the landing legs are different, otherwise you might not notice). The tensions in Ukraine and Crimea are bleeding over into the space exploration realm as the US and others discover what happens when one of your international partners does something "naughty". I'm not sure I agree with Elon Musk's ploy to get the Air Force to open up their contract bidding process, but I do agree that such contracts need to be open. All these stories are very interesting, impressive, important, and big, but to me there's a still bigger story to discuss.

ISS has got a webcam! A little over 4 years ago I wrote a blog entry titled "Is a Webcam Really Too Much to Ask??". I have had this notion since the days of Dan Goldin that a web-cam on the side of the ISS would give earthlings the chance to experience the joy of spaceflight without the added expense of flying up to the ISS. It would be inspirational! Students would be transfixed! Poets would dream! World leaders would sue for peace! Congressmen would fund NASA! Great stuff! I assailed Mr. Goldin with emails, but to no avail (Although I may have earned myself a reputation as a stalker there). I could just imagine what the Earth would look like from space from the comfort of my own PC. Earth from a live video feed. I imagined it would be amazing! I could feel the awe and serenity I would experience viewing such a web-cam. I almost feel goosebumps writing about it. But why imagine when you can see the real thing right now!

Go there (or here) and check it out. You can read more about it here. Fantastic, I tell you. All the things (almost) I could've wanted (I had a notion of five cameras being integrated into a spherical view to allow the viewers to virtually "move the camera around" rather than have set directional views, but at this point I'll take what I can get).

The view at the head of this article was from what I'm calling the ISS front porch (leading edge). This next image is from the ISS back porch (trailing edge). There is also a straight-down shot. Enjoy the site while it's up and running.