How DO Astronauts Watch the World Cup Live in Space?

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If you think you’re going out of your way to watch your favorite World Cup soccer games down the pub because you’ve forgotten to subscribe to ESPN, imagine what it must be like for football fans in space. Space station astronauts and cosmonauts can’t simply tune in to regular TV and they certainly can’t pull up a bar stool at the Kings Head in front of the HD wide-screen.

But fortunately for the six-man crew orbiting over 200 miles above our heads, NASA has an infrastructure in place that allows live and recorded terrestrial television to be beamed into low-Earth orbit.

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As explained by DNews’ Trace Dominguez, NASA uses a special Ku broadband connection with the space station that allows requested shows or events to be watched by the space station crew between their busy work schedules. Of course, the astronauts can’t just flick channels whenever they please, Mission Control in Houston, Texas, has possession of the remote control.

“Space station crew members request whatever programming they would like to see, and Mission Control arranges for those television shows to be uplinked to them on their Station Support Computers,” Public Affairs Officer Stephanie Schierholz, at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C., wrote in an email to Discovery News. “NASA’s Johnson Space Center television infrastructure pulls in programming from both commercial and cable outlets and can route any connection to Mission Control for uplink to the crew.”

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For up to 80 minutes of every 90-minute orbit around Earth, the space station crew can have connection to the Mission Control feed. “For example, the final match of the World Cup falls during off-duty time on a Sunday, so (the space station crew) might choose to watch some of the game live during the times they have Ku-band connection to Mission Control,” added Schierholz.

For more detail on how the space station gets its World Cup fever on, watch Trace’s space-soccer-tastic DNews video below:

Trace Dominguez also contributed to this article.