Imagine standing at the base of a launchpad just as a rocket blasts into space. As of today, experiencing a launch up close is available to anyone with a smartphone, laptop, or virtual reality headset.
At approximately 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, NASA will live-stream a 360-degree view of the maiden launch of the SS John Glenn from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The unmanned craft, named for the first American to orbit Earth, will carry supplies to the International Space Station.
"Experiencing the excitement of a rocket launch in person has a distinct tendency to ignite a fire within people," says Sarah McNulty, a NASA spokesperson. "Everyone who experiences one says there's nothing like watching it in person. We want the world to be a part of the experience."
To capture the event, NASA has placed four fisheye cameras in blast-proof boxes about 100 yards from the rocket and digitally stitched the images together. For safety reasons, people have never been able to get closer than several miles from a launch. But with a VR headset or even a smartphone and cardboard housing, you can now virtually stand on the pad during blastoff.
NASA will begin the stream just before the 30-minute launch window opens at 11:11 a.m. EDT and will let it run until the rocket is out of sight. If all goes according to plan, McNulty says, 360 live-streams may become standard for launches.