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Yahoo's Video Mission With NASA

As the space shuttle Discovery soared into the sky on Tuesday morning, it opened a new era in U.S. space exploration. It also launched a new era in Internet video.

The Return to Space Mission is the first to be continuously broadcast over the Internet, thanks to a partnership between NASA and Yahoo. Anyone with a Web connection will be able to check in on the astronauts' doings, any time of the day or night.

Yahoo is the official provider of Webcast coverage of the Discovery mission. It plans to provide round-the-clock live video footage of the 12-day mission, including the take-off, space walks and the shuttle landing.

"People who spend a lot of time on the Internet just love space travel," said Scott Moore, vice president of content for Yahoo. "I think there will be huge user interest in it." In fact, he thought it had the potential to the largest live Webcast event ever, a record recently set by AOL's delivery of the Live8 concerts.

Yahoo created a co-branded Windows Media Player that will stream NASA's live feed of the mission, available on the Web sites of both NASA.com and Yahoo. Coverage will be featured in a large box on the front page of Yahoo.com. The Internet media company will promote the throughout its network, while its global sites also will offer the streams.

Yahoo will use its own infrastructure. Moore said the company's bandwidth and delivery mechanisms were ready to roll. Yahoo will monitor server loads and modify the delivery bit rate if necessary. "We're in the very early days of Webcasting, it's not a perfect science," he said. "As the audience scales up, we may have to monitor and deal with it. That's where our experience comes into play."

Yahoo won't show ads against the streams on its site; Dunbar wouldn't disclose how much it would cost the company to provide the continuous Internet video. "We're doing this as a public service," he said. "Because of how much video Yahoo hosts, we have very good economies of scale, much better than a TV broadcaster that's doing something online. That's one reason we can take on a big event like this."

Akamai Technologies will stream NASA TV for RealPlayer and deliver all other Web content during the mission. Akamai gained NASA as a customer when it acquired Speedera Networks in June.

Jay Mejia, public relations director for Akamai, said the company's content delivery networks already were up to speed and ready to handle the traffic. In addition to the live stream of the launch, Akamai will steam live press conferences, three space walks and activities of the crew as they transfer supplies to the international space station.

Brian Dunbar, NASA Internet services manager, said that the NASA site delivered about 350,000 streams during the launch, and the total combined bandwidth maxxed out at around 50 gigabytes per second. "Our baseline is about 150 megabits per second," Dunbar said. "We're very happy we had Yahoo and Akamai with these requirements. We could never have handled this."

The shuttle originally was scheduled to launch on July 13, but the mission was delayed because of a faulty fuel sensor. Tuesday's launch is the first since the Columbia caught fire and exploded in February 2003.