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Planet Earth Gets Ready For Its Close-Up

posted 5 Feb 2013, 07:18 by Mpelembe   [ updated 5 Feb 2013, 07:18 ]

Space start-up company UrtheCast wants to bring Earth into sharper focus with state-of-the-art cameras mounted aboard the International Space Station. The company is building a web platform to stream a live signal of our planet, giving viewers a new perspective of events unfolding on Earth in near real time.

 IN SPACE  (NASA) -  It's a spectacular sight, but the view of Earth from space is about to get even better. While cameras aboard the International Space Station provide a view of Earth for anyone with a television or computer screen and Google Earth allows users to zoom in, Canadian company UrtheCast, says its taking the technology into a new realm.

The space start-up was founded by Wade Larson, a veteran of the Canadian space sector for almost two decades. His idea is to install state-of-the-art high definition cameras on the space station and provide a stream of live video, not just of generic Earth, but of specific events as they unfold below.

UrtheCast web engineer Alex Bain, says it will take Google Earth's capabilities several step s further.

"Google Earth has done a fantastic job of creating a way to explore the planet but the imageries that they's perpetually summertime and daytime all across Google Earth. What the reality of the situation is that there are different seasons, there is night time there is day time, things change over time. On what we are trying to do is create a platform that shows just how much things are changing over time," said Bain.

The company has contracted an exclusive deal with the Russian portion of the ISS to mount two HD cameras on the space station. The cameras, which are being manufactured for the project by British-based space company Rutherford Appleton Labs, will be capable of zooming in to reveal individual objects, including people, in unprecedented detail.

Urthecast's Nate Weisiger says one of the cameras will provide a 24 hour live stream while the other has the ability to zoom into an area of one square meter in high definition.

"As the space station is going around we can actually point this on a specific spot on the ground. And as it is orbiting, we can follow the path. So we can get up to a two minute video clip of a fixed position on the ground," said Weisiger.

The space station orbits the Earth fifteen times a day. Weisiger says that a constant stream of video will make major events on earth viewable from space as they take place.

"You can imagine world events unfolding, such as riots or volcano eruptions or sports games, seeing this unfold in real time," he said. UrtheCast says it will make the cameras commercially available to anyone who wants to use them, from governments and non-profit organizations, to businesses and universities. As an example, Alex Bainsays a real-time view of Earth will give scientists a powerful tool to monitor climate change.

"If you have a certain area of the planet that is interesting to you, let's say you have a farm or you have a certain area of forest that you do research in, you can subscribe to that region and then every time we have new updates for the specific region of the planet, you would get a new update or that would show up in your feed so that you would be able to stay abreast of the latest imagery of an area you care about," Bain said.

The cameras are set to be installed on the space station later this year. Bain says the images they produce will be 'out of this world'.