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NASA Astronaut Tweets From Space ? For Real This Time January 22, 2010

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Robin Wauters
TechCrunch.com
Friday, January 22, 2010; 4:12 AM
Astronauts aboard the ISS received a special software upgrade earlier this week, according to a NASA statement released moments ago: personal access to the Internet and the World Wide Web via the “ultimate wireless connection”.

This personal Web access, called the Crew Support LAN, takes advantage of existing communication links to and from the station and gives astronauts the ability to browse and use the Web. The system basically provides astronauts with direct private communications.

From the release:

During periods when the station is actively communicating with the ground using high-speed Ku-band communications, the crew will 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.

Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer made first use of the new system Friday, when he posted the first unassisted update to his Twitter account from the space station.

Previous tweets from space had to be e-mailed to the ground where support personnel posted them to the astronauts’ Twitter accounts.

U. of Colorado Lab Helps Haiti Victims Tweet for Help By Mary Helen Miller January 22, 2010

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Shortly after last’s week’s earthquake in Haiti, a group of students working in a laboratory in Colorado unveiled a project that makes it easier for victims and volunteers tweet for help.

The lab, at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Atlas Institute, produced a guideline for a “help specific” Twitter syntax that allows tweets requesting help to be easily processed by a computer program. The program organizes the messages by “hashtags,” as codewords used in Twitter are often called, that express need and location. Then the software can send the information to an organization providing relief.

The lab is working to educate people in Haiti and elsewhere about the conventions. Victims and volunteers could get help more quickly if they used the syntax to tweet, and volunteers anywhere can reformat tweets from Haiti and then forward them to others.

“We have this small army of volunteers out there translating tweets into this other format,” said Kate Starbird, a doctoral student who helped conceive of the project.

Ms. Starbird said that the project had been in the works for months and was not specifically designed for Haiti. When disaster struck there last week, the lab decided to unveil the project even though it had not been completed.

“We had to try,” Ms. Starbird said.

Ms. Starbird acknowledged that most Haitians would not have access to a cell phone or other device that could be used to tweet. But volunteers arriving in Haiti in the quake’s aftermath are likely to have such capabilities, she said.