Actually good reality TV: Live video from space!

Posted by in Intriguing

As some (but unfortunately very few) Americans are aware, currently, the space shuttle Endeavour is currently on its very last voyage. Assuming there are no issues with funding, the Atlantis will fly one final mission after this; but given the country’s ongoing budget crisis, that is far from certain. Regardless, the Endeavour will never fly again.

Now I know that NASA TV has been around for a while, but what’s news to me is that they carry live feeds from the mission. I stumbled upon this by accident, by installing the NASA channel on my new Roku player (which is awesome, by the way), and I spent the next several hours enthralled, watching the best reality TV ever. I had basically no idea what was going on; the astronauts were doing something involving a very, very long checklist that I assumed was preparing them for a spacewalk. And now, I’m watching, live, as two astronauts are actually undertaking that very spacewalk!

There are multiple camera angles from fixed cameras around the shuttle and the ISS, as well as POV cameras for the astronauts themselves. There isn’t any narration, and the dialogue is the mostly-incomprehensible techno-jargon that one would expect in such a situation, but still, watching these real American heroes so casually go about their fascinating and dangerous work is absolutely astounding to me. It resonates with both my star-struck inner child and my techy, engineer adult side. To imagine, those guys are actually there – the earth spinning by in the background – the cold, dark expanse of space stretching away endlessly beneath their feet. And their crewmates inside the shuttle, floating around like in the movies! Except that they all have much more poise and a much more business-like attitude than one generally associates with zero gravity; no dramatic, slow-mo leaps, or funny floating globs of water and random gear filling the air. Simply the occasional practical reminder of where they are, like a pen tethered to its clipboard, and the clipboard with a strap to affix to one’s leg. And then the camera cuts back to the control room and you’re reminded of how many hundreds of people are working on this amazing feat of human ingenuity.

I highly recommend that you check out the live feed, either at their main website, on their YouTube channel, or on a distributed channel, such as their Roku channel. Hurry, this mission’s only 16 days long; by June 1st it’ll all be over, possibly for good.