Call it the ultimate wireless connection. NASA announced Jan. 22 the ISS (International Space Station) received a software upgrade this week that allows astronauts personal access to the Internet.
Called the Crew Support LAN, the system leverages existing communication links to and from the station and gives astronauts the ability to browse and use the Web. NASA said the new system will enhance their quality of life during long-duration missions by "helping to ease the isolation associated with life in a closed environment."
When the station is actively communicating with the ground using high-speed Ku-band communications, the crew will still have remote access to the Internet via a ground computer. The crew will view the desktop of the ground computer using an onboard laptop and interact remotely with their keyboard touchpad.
Expedition 22 Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer made first use of the system when he posted an unassisted update to his Twitter account (@Astro_TJ) from the space station. Previous tweets from space had to be e-mailed to the ground where support personnel posted them to the astronaut's Twitter account.
"Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station -- the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your ?s," Creamer posted.
NASA said astronauts using the system are subject to the same computer use guidelines as government employees on Earth. In addition to this new capability, the crew will continue to have official e-mail, Internet Protocol telephone and limited videoconferencing capabilities.