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November 14, 2018

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Crystal-clear live-stream from orbit wows NAB Show

Image

NASA / AP

In this Jan. 13, 2017, file photo made available by NASA, astronaut Peggy Whitson, center, floats inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station with Thomas Pesquet, left, and Shane Kimbrough before their spacewalk. Whitson participated in the first 4K live video stream from space Wednesday as part of the NAB Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

NAB Show 2017

A Story & Heart film crew shoots a live mock restaurant scene before attendees during the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Technological advancements are routinely displayed at the annual National Association of Broadcasters Show, but one presentation Wednesday was out of this world: the first 4K live video stream from space.

A pair of astronauts on the International Space Station spoke with NAB Show attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center on crystal-clear 4K video with an 11-second delay.

NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer provided insight about what the new camera technology means to them and had a little fun in the process.

Traveling at more than 17,000 mph, Whitson said by the time they finished the 30-minute NAB session, they will have traveled from Baja, Mexico, to somewhere over Northern Africa.

“New cameras and technology make it able for us to get high-resolution, higher frame rates, to capture different science, ultra-slow motion for effects that are short-lived but very important,” Fischer said. “From the inspirational aspect, it actually makes you feel like you’re there. Everyone wants to see the Earth from this vantage point. Being able to inspire a new generation of explorers is great.”

Whitson, who on Monday eclipsed the American record of 534 days spent in orbit, said she dreamed of being an astronaut at a time when women weren’t considered for space travel.

“When I was growing up, I saw the first man to walk on moon, (and thought), ‘Wow, that’s a cool job,’” said Whitson, 57. “When I graduated high school, the first female astronauts were chosen. So I worked really hard, and in the end I got lucky and some of that work paid off. It’s been well worth the journey, for sure.”

With the speed they’re traveling and how quickly some events occur, the ability to record images in the best quality available is key.

“When you’re traveling at 17,500 mph, there’s a lot of Earth going by when you’re looking below us,” Whitson said. “We’re traveling once around the world every 90 minutes in orbit. ... There is an amazing amount of data and it allows us to capture something in high resolution.”

In addition to capturing video of Earth, various cameras are set up for onboard scientific experiments. Studies of microbiological cultures and protein crystallization are conducted daily.

Advancements in cameras will also play a vital role in the quest to reach new planets, Whitson said.

“Advanced technologies will be required to go to Mars, especially advanced imaging,” Whitson said. “It’s important to us to better understand where we’re headed and minimize the risk. All the different imaging studies from different rovers and missions before we arrive at Mars are going to be critical.”

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