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New app connects the public with an astronaut aboard the ISS

Jenny Winder, News Writer
Nov 27, 2014, 5:05 UTC

Sen—A new multi-platform app has been produced to help space fans connect in real time with an astronaut orbiting the Earth.

Friends in Space is a new online interactive project from Italian design studio Accurat. It forms a social network that connects people from all over the world with the first Italian woman astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti. 

Cristoforetti is the second female astronaut in the European Space Agency, and the first Italian female astronaut. She is part of the Expedition 42/43 aboard the International Space Station. The project launched on November 24, 2014, the first day of her mission and it will be live for 6 months, the whole duration of her adventure.

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Screenshots of the interface, preview. Image credit: Accurat

The developers say their app is built on three different explorable environments: the now, the past and the future.

In the now view you can see Samantha’s real-time position in space and a map of all the space enthusiasts around the world that are connected to Friends in Space in that moment. 

You can send a “Hello” to Sam and you will see when she says hello to all the people below her, using Twitter directly from the ISS. You will be able wave to an astronaut and perhaps even see her waving back at you, say Accurat.

The path of the ISS constantly changes as it orbits Earth more than 15 times a day. In the future view you can see the path it will follow in the sky in the next weeks.

In the past view you can go back in time and see where Samantha was in a specific moment, who said hello to her, her Twitter feed mapped on the ISS trajectory and watch the photographs of the Earth she has taken from space.

Users can also explore all the past and planned activities on the ISS: from scientific experiments to routine maintenance, from space-walks (Extra Vehicular Activities) to artificial day/night cycles.

Nick Howes, who works as both an astronomer and a software test engineer, was part of the team involved with testing the app. He told Sen: "I met Samantha when I was working for ESA a few years ago on a night out in Frascati. It was clear that of all the astronauts I've met, she really wanted to do a lot for public engagement whilst in orbit, and is someone who has embraced social media in a big way.

"Samantha herself was very involved in specifying and also testing the application, despite her overwhelmingly busy schedule, showing once again her amazing commitment to inspiring so many to reach for their dreams."