Who needs a bird's eye view when you could go with an astronaut's? One company's partnering with NASA to give us just that.
Vancouver-based UrtheCast installed two cameras aboard the International Space Station via a Soyuz rocket in 2013, in a mission to "democratise the Earth Observation industry". From your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you can gawk at our blue marble in near-real time online. The cams' coverage area is 51 to -51 degrees latitude, a belt from Chile to England that packs in 90 per cent of the population, the company says.
Soon, UrtheCast will be streaming in ultra HD, providing 60-second videos at 30 frames a second. It says it's the sole company that provides colour, 4K video of Earth from space. The service's basic account is free, allowing users to subscribe to views of certain locations or big world events.
This type of platform could obviously offer benefits, from climate change monitoring to planning disaster relief. But plain ol', red-blooded, space-lovin' civilians can enjoy too: Crack open a beer and look for your apartment complex as seen from 320km above. (Check the paranoia though — the 1.1m res video cam and 5.5m res still cam can capture stuff like cars and buildings, but can't make out faces or licence plate numbers.)
In a press release yesterday, UrtheCast CEO and co-founder Scott Larson said the high definition streaming would begin this summer. Watch this video from February that captured UrtheCast's initial images from space, including footage of Jamaica, Rome and Dubai.
Hubble has space porn covered, but is geography porn a thing? Geo porn? Dunno, but these views could end up being the coolest maps ever.