“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small,” said the recently-deceased Neil Armstrong in reference to his time on the surface of the Moon.
Time in space, or even time spent looking up into space, is considered a humbling experience. Seeing the world from above gives a sense of context, of the relationship between distant entities. Bringing that experience to the masses have been the splendid images and time-lapse videos of the Earth as seen from the International Space Station.
Those images, often captured by astronauts aboard the ISS, are pushed by artistic, educational, or scientific drivers. But now, the company UrtheCast (pronounced “Earth Cast”) wants to mount two high-definition cameras to the outside of the ISS to stream live video down from above. Richard Hollingham for BBC Future reports that starting next year, people will be able to “log into the site and see live or archived images and video of anywhere on Earth. With the ISS orbiting the planet around 15 times a day, sooner or later it’ll be above something you want to look at.”
Hollingham says that one of the two cameras will be fixed, pointing down at the Earth. The other will be able to move around, pointing at specific goings on. Both cameras will offer a resolution of around 1 meter per pixel. Ian Tosh, head of optical systems at RAL Space, the company manufacturing the cameras, told Hollingham that the view will be “imilar to the Google Earth type images of your house. You won’t quite see the tiles but you’ll see all the detail in the garden.”
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