Back when I was in law school in Indianapolis, I discovered one day that the local cable television provider was showing something really cool. On that day, one of the Space Shuttles happened to be in orbit. NASA routinely would have a video feed from the Shuttle, and the cable company was carrying it on their public access channel.
I sat in front of my TV for an hour or two, just mesmerized by the image of the Earth passing below. I recall being able to see a little bit of the Shuttle’s payload bay doors, which were open. As a little kid, I dreamed of being an astronaut. (Lousy vision and a weakness in math/physics would doom that dream.) I generally paid attention to when the Shuttles were in use, and it was no different during law school. (Remember, this was in the post-Challenger era; when the first post-Challenger shuttle launched, I watched it on a TV wheeled into the law school lounge for that purpose.)
Fast-forward to today, and I have belatedly discovered that NASA is providing a HD live feed off the International Space Station. At times, the feed shows an angle where I can see the Russian Soyuz craft attached and the blackness of space above the gentle curve of the planet. At other times, the feed is straight down. A few minutes ago, I watched Lake Michigan glide past. (The ISS path was just a little too far north to let me see South Bend.) Before that, I watched the ISS fly over Baja California and into Mexico.
Needless to say, I’m enthralled by this, and I hope it stays online for a very, very long time.
If you happen to be running Mac OS X, you can use the live feed as your screen saver. There may be a similar Windows option out there, and I’ll bet you can find it via Google. In the meantime, enjoy watching the world from a point of view that was once limited to a relatively lucky handful of people.