November 15, 2006
SO I WATCHED THE HDTV BROADCAST FROM SPACE that I mentioned below. It was pretty good, but it was the images of Earth from space that were really captivating -- they came across as IMAX-like -- and they didn't show enough of those. The stuff from the station interior was okay, be we've all seen people eat in zero gravity before and the demonstrations weren't especially exciting just because they were HD. I would have rather had half an hour of pictures of Earth from low orbit, with only minimal talking-head involvement.
I wonder if you could make money with a cable channel that just showed pictures from a low-earth-orbit satellite in HD? It would certainly be cool -- bringing the "Overview Effect" down to Earth -- though I don't think the technology's really there for that yet. Speaking of which, there was an interesting communications delay -- about three seconds -- that must be due to digital latency; they explained it as speed-of-light, but the station would have to be on the Moon to produce a lag of that order, and I don't think that even multiple satellite hops could account for it. The camera also seemed to develop an increasing number of stuck pixels as the broadcast went on, for some reason.
Worth watching, anyway, if this kind of thing interests you. It'll be rerun tonight at 9 pm Eastern.
UPDATE: Several readers say that I'm channeling Al Gore. Well, I don't think he had a commercial venture in mind, or HD, and I think he wanted the L1 libration point instead of low-earth orbit. But I certainly agree with him about the power of images of the earth.