Is NASA getting into the movie business? While the moon landing in July of 1969 held the world at the edge of their seats, watching it on tiny black and white televisions with grainy images and a wobbly video feed, today's video being beamed back from space is literally light years ahead of those vintage images.
Most people are familiar with the Hubble Space Telescope and the amazing images it has captured in its 25-year history. Stars being born and dying, galaxies expanding and entire nebulas were brought to life with that instrument. But video is so much more exciting, right? Especially as it concerns the International Space Station. A lot goes on up there, astronauts come and go on a regular basis, they host live chats with school children, and there's a ton of science work being done on board.
NASA wants to share all those events, as well as the spectacular view outside the station. On the outside of the ISS, there are cameras mounted that focus in all directions and stream video as part of the High Definition Earth Viewing System, or HDEV. It's a live feed that can be viewed on NASA's UStream page, live as it happens. The resolution of those images is the standard for live stream, 1080p. At that size, the ISS has enough online bandwidth to make that video available live.
The mission of space though, is to go further and to do that NASA has just released the first video from a new system of cameras on board the ISS. The main difference is the picture quality. The video just posted online on NASAs ReelNASA YouTube channel is a whopping 3840×2160 pixels, a standard known as 4K or Ultra High Definition, UHD-1. It's close to four times the pixel size of the 1080p streams and it makes images literally pop on screen. Because of this ginormous size, the film is edited down and then beamed to Earth and posted online, as opposed to streaming live. Even the ISS doesn't have the bandwidth to stream video of that size.
Another difference is the focus of each camera. The HDEV cameras are set to a fixed wide-angle focus, which while they capture a larger area than the new 4K cameras, the HDEV process cannot bring in the details the UHD-1 cameras can. The high definition cameras are set to focus much like a telephoto lens does, providing enough detail to tell the make and model of cars in traffic.
There are two of the High-Def cameras on board the ISS, one taking video at the 4K rate and another taking stills at 25MP. The video posted by NASA on June 15, 2015 shows video taken from the exterior of the ISS, including some stunning video of the polar ice caps, storm clouds of the ocean and even footage of the Space-X cargo ship docking at the station as well as the ISS astronauts going about their activities in a "day in the life" style of what it's like on board. There is even footage showing how a cheeseburger is made in zero gravity
Check out Reel 1 below to catch a Hi-Def glimpse of life onboard and outside the ISS.
I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.