It’s not exactly what Al Gore had in mind, but its close. Live streaming video is now available every day of the week from the International Space Station. The video will show views of Earth and the exterior structure of the station, as seen from cameras mounted outside the ISS, and other times, activities going on inside the station. If you regularly watch NASA TV online, just go to the same website, and now there’s another choice of channels. Just click on the “Live Space Station Video” tab to enjoy. The Earth views will usually be seen during what is the crew off-duty or sleep periods, usually from about 6 pm to 6 am GMT (1 p.m. to 1 a.m. CST.) During times when the crew is awake and working, selected video will be available, accompanied by audio of communications between Mission Control and the astronauts. Be advised that during working hours when there are special events going on — for example, today as I’m writing this there is a spacewalk taking place — the public channel offers better views and commentary.
During times when the shuttle is docked to the station, the stream will include video and audio of those activities. Whenever video isn’t available, a graphical world map will be shown that depicts the station’s location in orbit above the Earth using real-time telemetry sent to Mission Control from the station.
Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it sees a sunrise or a sunset every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but also may provide great views of city lights below.
The streaming video is being webcast as part of NASA’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of the space station in orbit.
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To find out when you can go outside and look back at the station overhead, check out NASA’s page for sighting opportunities.