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ISS astronauts will get their own Star Wars premiere—in space

Enlarge / In space, no one can hear you stream. Because the latency would kill you. (credit: NASA)

When you're orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth, getting to the movie-plex to watch the latest science fiction blockbuster is a bit of a drag. But the current crew of the International Space Station will still be able to watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi, according to a report from Inverse—and they'll do so while in orbit.

NASA Public Affairs Officer Dan Huot told Inverse that the ISS crew “will be able to watch it in orbit. Don’t have a definitive timeline yet."

This is at least partially thanks to the improvements made in the ISS's communications systems in 2013. Those updates were intended to improve the "scientific output" of the space station, which once had to essentially rely on dial-up speed connections. The High Rate Communications System (HRCS) gave the ISS a massive upgrade in its downlink and uplink speeds—increasing the bandwidth of uplink from the ground to 25 megabits per second, making it qualify as broadband under FCC guidelines. The downlink speeds—the rate at which ISS can send data to ground stations—is a blazing 300 megabits per second. The high-speed networking gear and accompanying Ethernet upgrades were executed by the ISS's commander at the time, Canadian astronaut and interstellar rock star Chris Hadfield, and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn.

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Teaser: Coming next Tuesday, our Apollo celebration lands on the Moon

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript. (video link)

First, it took the acceptance of risk for NASA to fly into space—and to return to flight after three astronauts died. Then, it took guts to send astronauts on a round trip into lunar orbit and back. But in 1969, after years of increasingly frenetic activity, the efforts of nearly half a million men and women were finally rewarded with the ultimate trip: a safe lunar landing and return, before the end of the decade.

Apollo 11 is special—not just to the history of NASA or the United States of America, but for the entire world and all who live on her. On a plain summer day in July of 1969, just past three o'clock in the afternoon Houston time, three humans landed a fragile spacecraft with paper-thin walls on another world. It was to be the first time humans walked on a celestial body other than our home—and, for a few hours, we as a species were more than Americans and Soviets and Chinese and Britains and so on. Those three people boldly making footprints where no one had gone before showed us that we truly were, as Apollo 8's Frank Borman put it, all people of "the good Earth."

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Video: See our full interview with EVA flight controller Grier Wilt

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript. (video link)

Working outside a spacecraft in a spacesuit—or walking on the Moon in one—is among the most dangerous activities that an astronaut can take part in. Officially referred to as "EVA" in NASA acronym shorthand—that's short for "extravehicular activity"—and commonly called "spacewalking" by the public, leaving the pressurized metal protection of your ship or station and floating in the void means committing yourself to a dynamic environment where conditions can change very rapidly. EVAs typically last a few hours but require months of training in the agency's giant swimming pool to ensure everything goes well.

The capstone activities of Apollo were the surface EVAs, where astronauts planted flags, placed experiments, drove space cars, and otherwise tried to cram as much activity as possible into very short windows of time. It's difficult to come up with a meaningful estimate for the per-minute cost of each lunar EVA, but estimates in the millions of dollars per minute aren't far off; with that kind of cost pressure, Apollo astronauts on the lunar surface had to do everything they could to maximize the impact of each trip outside the lunar module.

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Watch NASA’s exciting, mysterious new exoplanet news and Google partnership announcement live right here

nasa live

NASA regularly rolls out news about its discoveries, theories, and studies, and most of the time they do so with very little fanfare. When the agency takes the time to schedule a press conference for an announcement, you know it's going to be something pretty substantial. Today, NASA is doing just that, and will be holding a live event to reveal something about its Kepler exoplanet hunter, and it looks like Google is somehow involved.

Nobody is quite sure exactly what NASA has up its sleeve, but it appears to be related to the ongoing search for exoplanets, and potentially a new way that Google is helping with that effort. The event will be streamed live online, and you can catch it right here.

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Watch NASA’s exciting, mysterious new exoplanet news and Google partnership announcement live right here originally appeared on on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 at 12:44:29 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Video: See our full interview with NASA astronaut Victor Glover

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript. (video link)

In pulling together our interviewee list for "The Greatest Leap," we knew we wanted to talk not just to the luminaries who made Project Apollo a reality 50 years ago, but also to modern-day astronauts. After all, the NASA we have today owes its existence to the space race of the 1950s and '60s, and in many ways, it's still the same agency that put people on the Moon. (Though, as we all sit here on Earth without a moonbase above our heads, it's clear that the agency lacks the followthrough many people expected it to have.)

We were exceptionally lucky to be able to sit down for an hour or so with Victor Glover, an accomplished aviator and test pilot who became an astronaut four years ago. Glover's perspective on the current state of the astronaut corps and the way NASA operates provides a fascinating window into what it's like to be an astronaut now—and what it might have been like to train for that voyage from the Earth to the Moon.

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