“I want to understand our world better. Seeing it from a different angle really helps, and no perspective is more radically different than the one you get when you leave the planet altogether and look back.” – Chris Hadfield, Astronaut
What an amazing view it must be for astronauts to gaze down at Earth while in orbit. While there’s certainly nothing like being there in person, and while photos and recorded video provide some indication of the view, now there’s a way to gain your own insight and better experience what the astronauts see while looking out the window.
The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment, which has been active since April 2014, streams live high definition video 24/7 from the International Space Station (ISS) to your computer or mobile device.
HDEV includes four different standard commercial video cameras mounted on the External Payload Facility of the Columbus module on the ISS, one camera facing forward, one pointing straight down, and two facing aft. The objective of the HDEV mission is principally to test the ability and performance of such cameras to operate and survive in the harsh space environment. Results from this experiment will provide an indication of the durability of commercially available cameras for use in future space missions.
But there’s more to this video than just an engineering experiment and an astounding view from space. Such video has both scientific and commercial value with respect to the geospatial information that can be derived from the imagery. In fact, coming soon from technology company Urthecast will be Ultra-HD video from the ISS, with one meter ground resolution, that will be available for viewing and analysis through both free and premium services.
In the meantime, while the HDEV experiment is being conducted, live streaming video from the HDEV cameras is available on Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/iss-hdev-payload
As an alternative, to simultaneously see the HDEV video in combination with a live map of where the ISS is currently located, visit the HDEV viewing portal at the NASA JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.
Also, don’t worry if the video feed is black or not available at first. There’s a periodic lapse in video as HDEV automatically cycles between the different cameras, there’s no video when the ISS is on the night side of the Earth, and sometimes there’s simply a temporary loss of signal.
But the view is worth the wait.