What it takes to tweet from space: 100 radiation-resistant laptops, Wi-Fi, help from Earth

What does it take to send a tweet from space? A radiation-resistant laptop, a Wi-Fi connection and a lot of help from folks back on Earth.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Last Friday, astronaut Timothy Creamer was the first human to use the Twitter service live from space.

From the International Space Station located 250 miles above the Earth, Creamer tweeted the following:

Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your ?s.

Seems easy enough, but it actually takes a lot of hard work, hardware and logistics to get Internet service in Low Earth Orbit -- much less while traveling at 17,300 miles per hour.

According to the space station's IT staff, the ISS is equipped with 100 laptops -- 68 IBM (now Lenovo) ThinkPad A31 laptops and 32 ThinkPad T61p notebooks -- all connected using Wi-Fi.

(Why those laptops? In an interview with SmartPlanet overseas sibling CNET UK last year, those models were deemed among the best to withstand radiation -- the ISS is exposed to as much radiation in a day as Earthlings are in a year -- and off-gassing, to prevent chemical fumes in the station.)

Inside, there's also a dedicated IP phone for calls, as well as videoconferencing capability, to allow astronauts chat face-to-face with family back on Earth.

The station's astronauts enjoy connection speeds comparable to home DSL, with 3Mbps up and 10Mbps down.

Of course, that doesn't mean astronauts can start streaming past episodes of The Tonight Show: according to Creamer, there were technical hurdles that were overcome to provide the ability for him to send a tweet.

Still, if Creamer wants to watch a movie or send an e-mail from space, it's no simple task; astronauts must get colleagues on Earth to lend a hand. Every eight hours, Houston syncs the station server to the NASA one on Earth, preserving bandwidth and keeping hackers at bay.

Follow TJ Creamer on Twitter. (And don't forget to follow SmartPlanet, too.)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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