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The Internet is now (officially) in space

Cross posted from openNASA.com

Here on Earth, we’ve grown used to having the Internet available almost anytime we want it. As of December 2009, 74% of American adults use the internet. 60% of American adults use broadband connections at home. 55% of American adults connect wirelessly through laptops or handheld devices like smartphones.

So, what about Astronauts in space? Do they have internet?

When I posted “The First *Human* Tweet from Space”on openNASA.com back in May 2009, some rightly pointed out that this technically wasn’t a tweet from space. At that time, @astro_mike wrote an email that was sync’d to the ground later in the day (email is sync’d twice a day from the space). The email was sent to PAO and a ghost writer copied/typed the “tweet” word for word on @astro_mike’s twitter account.

Although this was a big step for NASA at the time, the agency took an even bigger step forward today when Astronauts on the International Space Station received a special software upgrade that provides personal access to the Internet. Although the internet service is still limited (no pictures or big files yet), it does allow for real time updating! TJ Creamer made the first use of the new system about eight hours ago with an update to his Twitter account (@Astro_Tj), inviting questions from those of us still stuck on Earth:

"Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station -- the 1st live tweet from Space! 🙂 More soon, send your ?s"

Here’s a little more information from the official NASA press release:

This personal Web access, called the Crew Support LAN, takes advantage of existing communication links to and from the station and gives astronauts the ability to browse and use the Web. The system will provide astronauts with direct private communications to enhance their quality of life during long-duration missions by helping to ease the isolation associated with life in a closed environment. During periods when the station is actively communicating with the ground using high-speed Ku-band communications, the crew will have remote access to the Internet via a ground computer. The crew will view the desktop of the ground computer using an onboard laptop and interact remotely with their keyboard touchpad.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m really looking forward to this new participatory era of human spaceflight. The challenge for all of us is to think about how we can use social media everyday to create a direct, personal connection with people who don’t usually think about spaceflight and help them experience space travel as we see it!

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