President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on Capitol Hill will be the place-to-be on Tuesday (January 20th). According to some news sources, tickets for the event were trading for a price exceeding 5 figures (in one case, according to CNN in November, an online vendor was asking for $20,095 for a single ticket – I hope they get a “free” bottle of Champagne with that!). It would appear that ticket demand outstripped supply, making the 44th presidential inauguration one of the hottest (and most costly) events to attend in 2009.
However, there is a far cheaper (and less crowded) alternative to view Obama and Biden getting sworn into office. A satellite called GeoEye-1 will be orbiting 423 miles above Washington D.C. looking down at the vast crowd minutes before the excitement begins…
In August 2008, Google signed a deal with the satellite imagery company GeoEye for exclusive use of the images produced by the company’s new GeoEye-1 satellite. GeoEye-1 was launched on board a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on September 6th 2008. The satellite is currently in a Sun-synchronous orbit, over 400 miles above the surface of Earth, imaging the surface in unprecedented detail. A US government licence actually limits the resolution of available images to 0.5 metres (the camera on GeoEye-1 can attain a resolution of 0.41 metres). GeoEye-1’s competitors can resolve objects down to 0.6 metres at the smallest. The GeoEye products are currently used by Google for several projects, such as Google Earth and Google Maps.
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On Tuesday, however, it is not Google that is interested in getting the ultimate birds-eye view of the festivities at Capitol Hill; GeoEye itself is commissioning a high-resolution photography run at 11:19 EST as the satellite buzzes overhead at a speed of 17,000 mph. Usually, the presidential inauguration takes place at noon, so GeoEye-1 will be able to grab a snapshot of the growing crowds of spectators 41 minutes before the new commander-in-chief takes office.
“An image of the Inauguration has been requested by many news organizations,” a GeoEye spokesperson said. “So, if the weather cooperates, the image will be distributed to news organizations and bloggers around the world. The image will be available about three hours after it’s taken.”
I for one, will be hovering over the GeoEye website, waiting for the orbital view of Washington D.C. to appear in the comfort of my office…