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NASA live tweeting from space

By Ed O'Keefe

You can't get a good WiFi connection around most of Washington, but now you can get a good one in outer space.

NASA announced on Friday that astronauts aboard the International Space Station will be able to use the Internet and social media tools like Twitter unassisted by ground control back on Earth. Astronauts previously had to e-mail potential tweets to ground control staffers who then posted the messages for them.

Astronaut T.J. Creamer was the first to take advantage of the new arrangement this morning when he posted an update on his Twitter account, @Astro_TJ, from the space station:

"Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station -- the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your ?s."

(Not nearly as prophetic as "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," but it's a start!)

The crew still only gets remote web access through a computer back on Earth when they're in active communication with ground control. But during off-hours, astronauts can freely surf the Web, use Internet phone protocols and some videoconferencing technology.

The move should "enhance their quality of life during long-duration missions by helping to ease the isolation associated with life in a closed environment," NASA said.

And despite their remote working location, astronauts must still adhere to computer usage guidelines followed by federal employees back on Earth.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 22, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
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