We have invented more than a few things over time to distract us, to give us something to do while procrastinating, to take us away from what we really should be doing.
First, there was the book. I doubt anyone’s family ever started to death because the hunter/gatherer/farmer/provider in the family was too wrapped up in “The Illiad” or “Gilgamesh.” These days we’ve gotten better at procrastination, so there are many sudden sick days called in when the latest “Wheel of Time” or “Game of Thrones” book comes out.
Then came radio. How could kids be expected to study and do homework when “Terry and the Pirates” or “Inner Sanctum” was coming right into their living rooms?
Television became the king pretty quickly by the 1950’s and 1960’s. Housewives left carpets unvacuumed and laundry unwashed (okay, stereotypical, but in the 50’s and early 60’s those stereotypes were there for a reason) due to the afternoon soap operas. No one in his right mind tried to get kids to do anything on Saturday morning when cartoons were on.
Sports got onto television and men led the charge as we all found ways to change our schedules to accommodate the World Series, football playoffs, Stanley Cup finals, and March Madness. (It long ago stopped being just men, but that’s another stereotype that lingers.)
Computer games have been ruling the roost lately. How many billions of hours have the human race collectively squandered on Angry Birds, Farmville, Bejeweled, Candy Crush, Pac-Man, and on and on and on and on?
We all have our own tastes for distractions, the thing that can make us decide to throw in the towel on even trying to meet a deadline or goal. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for books, and there are a few television shows I’ll make time for. And of course, my beloved Kings, Chiefs, and Angels, especially if (when!) they’re in the playoffs.
But there’s no doubt a new challenger for my time.
The latest Dragon spacecraft from SpaceX arrived at the International Space Station last week. Soon afterward, an equipment pallet was remotely taken from the Dragon and installed on the nadir (“bottom”, or Earth-facing) side of the station. It simply has several HD television cameras, controlled from the ground. And they’re always on. And you can watch them, LIVE, for free, from your computer or tablet or smart phone or whatever.
There are several feeds that I’ve found. This one is fantastic, with a split screen showing both the live feed video from Ustream and the ISS live tracking map from the European Space Agency. In one fell swoop, you can see what the astronauts on the ISS are seeing, and you can tell where they’re at and what you’re looking at. (Bookmark it NOW!)
At this moment, we’re just coming up on sunrise. Sixty seconds ago the live video was black (it was night, ISS was over the Atlantic, no cities, no lights). Then we came into the sunrise on orbit (spectacular!) and the ISS got lit up brilliantly, while the ground below it is still in darkness. (If you had been in northwest Africa, inside that yellow circle surrounding the ISS on the map, it would have been an outstanding time to go outside and see it.)
The straight video feed only, live from space, can be found here. Put it on full screen, put on some tunes, and kiss the next couple of hours goodbye!
Five minutes later, and the Earth below is coming into daylight. It’s dawn over the Mediterranean.
Two minutes later, there’s the French Riviera and Northern Italy disappearing behind us as we head toward Turkey.
You can see what’s happening here. The system switches between cameras facing “forward,” “backward,” and “straight down.” There are brief periods when the live feed goes gray as ISS goes out of range of the TDRS satellites and ground stations, but it will be back in a couple of minutes.
There’s Italy, clear as a bell. It looks like a lovely day there. It looks like an even more lovely day 260 miles up.
I may never get anything done again. If these kinds of views ever get boring or routine or droll, please feel free to check me for a pulse.
Big storms over the Black Sea. (Gotta go to bed. Gotta go to bed. Gotta go to bed…)