When Samuel Morse demonstrated the telegraph, he famously tapped out a line from the Bible: "What hath God wrought?"
When Alexander Graham Bell tested his telephone, he called his assistant: "Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you."
When T.J. Creamer sent the first direct upload from space to the Web this morning, it looked like this:
"Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your ?s"
Yes, it was the first live tweet from orbit. It may surprise you to know that space station astronauts — who go around the world once every 91 minutes — have not had the ability to surf the World Wide Web until now. They could send and receive digital packets — e-mail — but they didn't carry the software for web access until station crew member Timothy J. (T.J.) Creamer got to work on it. He's been orbiting with four crew mates since Dec. 20 and is due home in May.
In the interest of public outreach, astronauts have posted messages on Twitter before — Mike Massimino, with whom I spent some time before last May's mission to service the Hubble Telescope, has 1.3 million followers — but during flight, what they were really doing was e-mailing tweets to Houston, where NASA public affairs staffers posted them.
In fairness, broadband communications from orbit are not like your Wi-Fi at home, with signals relayed through satellites 22,000 miles above the station. NASA assures us that "Astronauts will be subject to the same computer use guidelines as government employees on Earth. In addition to this new capability, the crew will continue to have official e-mail, Internet Protocol telephone and limited videoconferencing capabilities."
They may also order something from Amazon on the sly, though getting it delivered will be a pain.(NASA Image: Space Station as last seen by a visiting space shuttle Nov. 25, 2009.)