NASA's space tweets are part of a larger conversation

The first real-time tweet from space said very little, but the software upgrade that made it possible is pretty impressive.

ONE SMALL TWEET: It might not qualify as a giant leap for mankind — and it’s sure not up to the standards of “Mr. Watson, come here!” — but a real-time tweet has been issued from orbit. On Jan. 22, astronaut T.J. Creamer, a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station, signed on to Twitter as @Astro_TJ and issued the first live missive from the great beyond, NASA said. Past tweets from space were e-mailed to the ground and then posted to a Twitter account.

True to the format, his message said nothing: "Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your ?s" The universe might be infinite, but Twittered space messages are still limited to 140 sliced, diced and mutilated characters.

Nevertheless, the software upgrade that made it possible is pretty impressive. The system, which NASA calls the Crew Support LAN, taps into existing communications links — a Ku satellite band with 3 megabits/sec upstream and 10 megabits/sec downstream — to give astronauts Web access, along with the ability to better communicate with family and loved ones during their long stays on the space station. All that while traveling at 17,300 mph some 250 miles above the Earth.

Tweeting from space might be trendy, but it’s also a small part of NASA’s efforts toward faster space transmissions and, ultimately, a true space-based Internet.

If beings are out there, we’ll at least be ready to friend them.

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