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RealTime IT News

Streaming to The Moon

Unlike the first trip to the moon, when the Internet was in its infancy and streaming referred to a babbling brook, millions of online users will be able to watch the competition for the second lunar visit.

For the next two days, Las Cruces, N.M., will be the home base for amateur space enthusiasts and homebrew engineers enticed by a chance to win $2.5 million as part of the Wirefly XPrize Cup 2006 and a U.S. goal to return to the moon by 2020.

Moon 2.0, the umbrella name for this NASA-supported effort, which includes other space-oriented competitions, will also be available to watch online.

Mirror Image Internet will offer eight hours of live coverage, including countless videos, using 20 cameras and a worldwide network of servers.

While aerospace giant Northrop Grumman is putting up the cash prize in hopes of finding a company able to design the next lunar landing, Space.com and Mirror Image consider the event a showcase for Internet technology.

The Las Cruces get-together turns the spotlight on video streaming, said Craig Besnoy, vice president of business development for LiveScience/Space.com, the site offering the co-branded Windows Media streaming.

Organizers were unable to estimate the demand for viewing the streamed video coverage, but at the first two XPrize events, between 19,000 and 20,000 concurrent users were online, said Martin Hayward, director of marketing for Mirror Image.

The company's recently updated network, spread across Europe and the U.S., can handle a maximum 100,000 simultaneous users streaming content, he said.

Behind the scenes, the Mirror Image's Content Access Points include a mix of Intel and Sun servers. The Intel servers employ dual-core processors and run Windows-based software, Hayward said.

Streaming such events as the XPrize Cup 2006 has become not just another way to reach potential audiences, but a necessary component of coverage in the Internet age.

"People have the broadband connections and demand they be entertained," Hayward said.

The Mirror Image executive said they are able to compete with Akamai Technologies, an Internet streaming veteran.

Akamai has streamed major league baseball games, as well as NASA events.

Mirror Image has handled a wide range of customers, themselves, including the Grammy Awards. It also streamed the video of the first XPrize contest, which offered $10 million to the first team to design and launch a craft able to reach the outer edge of space and return, and then two weeks later repeat the process.

Other highlights of Moon 2.0 that people can watch online include the Lunar Lander challenge, a Vertical Rocket Challenge, which will test which designs are able to achieve the greatest heights, and the Space Elevator Games, which will test a team's ability to lift a payload powered only by a beam of light.

For race fans, the XPrize Cup includes the inaugural of the Rocket Racing League, what Besnoy described as the "NASCAR of space."

Single-person craft will fly a 3-D course, he said. While the space league won't take to the sky until 2007, the group will have on display the league's X-Racer craft.