Houston, we are go for live streaming from space

By Phil Plait | February 5, 2010 7:30 am

We live in the future.

Don’t believe me? Then why not sit back, relax, and watch this live video stream from frakking space.

That’s right: we can now watch video, live, from the International Space Station.

<Futurama voice>Welcome to the world of TOMORROW!</Futurama voice>


This is very cool. You can watch live as the astronauts on board do their duty, see shots outside the portal to view the station components, and even watch as the Earth rolls by under the station at 8 kilometers per second. Wow.

This is precisely the kind of thing I’ve been harassing my friends at NASA media to implement for years. I’m glad they’ve finally done it!

Now, if only they’d allow embedding…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures, Space

Comments (38)

  1. Is the toiletcam hooked up yet?

  2. Lars

    The Colbert-cam you mean? Dunno, but this is √ľbercool.
    *drools and stares vacantly at screen*

  3. Yeah, but it’s just nearby space! Sheesh! Let me know when something impressive happens. In the meantime, I’ll be reading my new copy of “Never-Satisfied Cretin Monthly”.

  4. Ivan

    Here’s the direct link to the video stream. Warning: proprietary Micro$oft protocol, needs to be opened in VLC (or Windoze media player, if you must).


    (The free, open-source, cross-platform VLC media player is available at videolan.org.)

  5. StringThing

    Awwww. I think we broke it. Either that or a vertical line space alien camera sucker has attached itself to the lens.

    Thanks for the link though.

  6. Laura

    It’s fun living in the future.

  7. Jason R. Gill

    Yeah, that’s awesome – but NASA’s internet tech seemingly needs to move past the internet technology of the 90’s

    I mean… seriously, Realplayer streams?

    They really should implement that in flash, though. Even if it’s “just for now” (they could even do HTML5 for newer browsers if they wanted). Yes, it’s just trading one proprietary encoding and playback software for another, but their goal is to reach as wide an audience as possible with this – and flash players have the market penetration right now. That’s where the viewers are NOW. Assuming they encode their stream in a format that HTML5 browsers can understand, they could even perform an amazingly simple browser check and serve up HTML5 video for capable browsers, with flash as the fallback.

    The purpose of broadcasting this sort of thing to the internet is to get people interested, raise awareness – it’s a neat curiosity for most internet users. Very few people are going to sit and watch the spacecam for hours. They have to click the site, and it has to just work. If your visitors have to fiddle with plugins or pick from a list of different streams they don’t really know about, they’re probably just going to go away. Web users are not a captive audience, so if you want the majority of non-technical users to use it, it has to just work; otherwise they’re just going to close the site and keep playing Farmville or Fishland. It’s all about usability.

    But seriously… Realplayer? hahaha.

    (I actually mean all this in a constructive way. Despite the realplayer thing!)

  8. alfaniner

    Is this different from the NASA TV that I fortunately get on my cable channel? Personally, I wouldn’t mind a dedicated Earth fly-by feed so that I could just put some music on and watch.

  9. Katharine

    No, we always live in the present. ūüėõ

    Also, yay toiletcam!

  10. matt rogers

    there is a typo! I know it doesn’t really matter but i thought i would say it anyway to be annoying!

    Welcome to the word of TOMORROW!

  11. “First thing I did on internet? Order my wife some flowers,” commander Jeffrey Williams wrote in his online Twitter account. “It was a hit. Commerce from space!”

    Brilliant NASA. Really? Ugh…

  12. I could be missing something here but hasn’t the ISS stream been available for over a year?

    Still great though.

  13. NBunnyWAW says:
    > I‚Äôll be reading my new copy of ‚ÄúNever-Satisfied Cretin Monthly‚ÄĚ.

    January edition? Disappointing.
    Still, it’s Friday, if you like that sort of thing.

  14. Gozza

    hmm the static on my tv is more impressive than this nasa testscreen…

  15. XMark

    I wonder if the external camera feed will still be on when they’re on the dark side of Earth? I’ve always wanted to know what it looks like and it seems like all the pictures I’ve seen from orbit are during the “day”.

    Would city lights be visible enough to show up at that resolution?

  16. Chip

    Future? Windows media player plug-in required? Sheesh. Welcome to 1998. Oops, just saw #6. Ditto.

  17. amphiox

    As I understand it, electronics have to be “hardened” for space, in order for them to survive in the harsh conditions up there for any length of time. This necessity results in a lag between when a new electronic technology is developed on earth and when it can be successfully deployed in space. Whether this lag will always have to be something greater than a decade or so is something I am not qualified to render a judgment on.

  18. Is this working? I have been watching for a while and it changes from a static view of the limb of the Earth at sunset (beautiful, I admit) and a view of the station against dark sky, with changing glitters of the Sun, but it must be a loop because the Sun stays at the same position. Is everybody seeing the same?

  19. A live, HD, view of the Earth from space TV channel, is one of the few channels I’d pay money for…

  20. I read that as “…as the astronauts on board do their duty, DO shots outside the portal to view the station components…”

  21. Steve Paluch

    I thought this has been around for at least a couple years now…

  22. Blind Squirrel

    I won’t be truly impressed until someone gets high speed intertubes out here on the perimeter sufficient to actually watch streaming video.


  23. Mchl

    I have this feeling I was in a future before you… That’s some wicked sort of deja vu I suppose.

  24. jcm

    “… watch as the Earth rolls by under the station at 8 kilometers per second.” Is this wrt the ISS?

  25. T.E.L.

    jcm Said:

    [8km/s]: “Is this wrt the ISS?”

    Yes. That’s approximately orbital speed at the Station’s altitude.

  26. PlasticRectangle

    This has been around for a while. Still please that more folks are finding it though.
    Combine this with one of those satellite tracking pages and you can see right away what the ISS is flying over. Pretty neat.

  27. Chris Goodson

    Cool! I attended Space Camp for educators two years ago and we got to tour Marshall Space Flight center. One of the best parts of the day was looking in on the Payload Operations Center for the ISS. They had a live feed from the station up on the big screen and I could do little more than stare at it. Now I can do it from home.

  28. gss_000

    @Jason R. Gill

    Your point is valid…except there’s a fundamental flaw here. Because of all the testing that goes into anything that travels into space, the systems are usually out of date compared to what’s on Earth by the time they launch. So you are dealing with 90s, and sometimes 80s, tech there. The computers are especially out of date, which is why they only recently got real internet access at the station.

    But fear not. NASA is going to be using the ISS to test some new internet protocols called DTN (Delay Tolerant Networking) that it developed with Vince Cerf and is superior to HTML in that data streams can handle breaks in transmissions. This is needed so that large data streams from satellites and future astronauts aren’t delayed becuase a planet or craft is in a bad location. What’s cool is this has applications for things like GPS when you’re traveling through tunnels or places where signals are lost. Space applications at work on Earth.

    @22 and @27
    There has been streams of views outside the station for awhile. I believe what’s new here is you can see inside what astronauts are doing.

  29. This reminds me of the first part of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, where the public was able to watch live feeds of the crew during the outbound mission to the Red Planet. We should demand that this be a requirement on the next Moon or beyond-the-Moon mission!

  30. This is the coolest thing ever. This is why the internet was invented :)

  31. It was out of range of the tracking relay station for a while and just reappeared. I took a Fortran course on punch cards (doesn’t seem all that long ago) – I’m sitting here in my office in the forest in Colorado watching live streaming video from space via wifi to my laptop. Just amazing.

  32. Michael Kingsford Gray

    Better get a look in now, before they scrap this pointless political tin-can.

  33. John Rinehart

    Wow…now if only we could get live streams from a deeper probe like Cassini. Now THAT would be cool!

  34. amphiox

    re #29,

    Indeed. Reliability testing in particular is of utmost importance. Would you want the computer systems responsible for life support, navigation, and communication with earth on the ISS/shuttle/etc to work with the same level of reliability as Windows?

  35. Want to know why so many places still offer RealPlayer streams? Because RealNetworks provided free video encoders to dozens of major media outlets, with the proviso that they offer their content in RealPlayer format for the duration of the contract. (I used to work at a TV station where we had to maintain support for RealPlayer because of the encoders we were given.)

  36. Messier Tidy Upper

    Thanks NASA. Good to see. Literally. :-)

    & I see they are on facebook too now :

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/NASA-2Explore/24257241459#!/pages/NASA-2Explore/24257241459?ref=mf :-)

    Hmm .. now if only I can get that link to work.

    As for “toiletcam” I think I’ll pass on that one. ūüėČ

    PS. Countdown for the scrubbed due to weather & now rescheduled Endeavour last ever night-time launch see also :


    the countdown clock is currently reading :

    19 hours 25 minutes 20 secs

    19 hours 23 min 7 secs

    19 hours 19 min 59 secs

  37. Messier Tidy Upper

    Yay! The link to NASA’s facebook I posted above actually works! At least it did for me when tested it just then. :-)

    Oh & that hypnotic countdown timer now stands at :

    19 hours 5 minutes & 55 secs.


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