Since NASA took the first full photograph of Earth in 1972, the space agency’s fortunes have been mixed. It stopped going to the moon, its shuttle program was canceled, and its budget has been slashed as spaceflight moves to the private sector. But when it comes to putting Earth on film, the agency is still on top.
NASA is now streaming live high-definition footage of the Earth, captured by four cameras attached to the International Space Station (ISS) as it orbits the planet. The ISS’s new assignment comes only months after the Obama administration agreed to give the $100 billion laboratory extended funding until 2024.
The new project, known as the High Definition Earth Viewing Experiment (HDEV), went live on April 30 and will stream video of Earth until October 2015.
The goal of HDEV—besides capturing HD footage of the Blue Marble—is to evaluate whether commercially available cameras can survive the harsh conditions of space, particularly the radiation they are exposed to outside the ISS. The cameras are enclosed in a pressurized box containing dry nitrogen, mimicking the atmospheric pressure on Earth.
According to the project’s website, the agency hopes it will be able to use the cameras on future space missions, as “using available products may be more cost-effective than designing new products.”
Here’s NASA’s live stream from HDEV. (As IFLScience points out, when the ISS is on the opposite side of Earth from the sun, the footage can be hard to see.)