As the space shuttle Discovery soared into the sky on Tuesday morning, it opened a new era in U.S. space exploration. It also launched a new era in Internet video.
The Return to Space Mission is the first to be continuously broadcast over the Internet, thanks to a partnership between NASA and Yahoo. Anyone with a Web connection will be able to check in on the astronauts’ doings, any time of the day or night.
Yahoo is the official provider of Webcast coverage of the Discovery mission. It plans to provide round-the-clock live video footage of the 12-day mission, including the take-off, space walks and the shuttle landing.
”People who spend a lot of time on the Internet just love space travel,” said Scott Moore, vice president of content for Yahoo. ”I think there will be huge user interest in it.” In fact, he thought it had the potential to the largest live Webcast event ever, a record recently set by AOL’s delivery of the Live8 concerts.
Yahoo created a co-branded Windows Media Player that will stream NASA’s live feed of the mission, available on the Web sites of both NASA.com and Yahoo. Coverage will be featured in a large box on the front page of Yahoo.com. The Internet media company will promote it throughout its network, while its global sites also will offer the streams.
Yahoo will use its own infrastructure. Moore said the company’s bandwidth and delivery mechanisms were ready to roll. Yahoo will monitor server loads and modify the delivery bit rate if necessary. ”We’re in the very early days of Webcasting. It’s not a perfect science,” he said. ”As the audience scales up, we may have to monitor and deal with it. That’s where our experience comes into play.”