March 14, 2014

Up, up and away for a live TV special from space

NEW YORK (AP) — National Geographic Channel is targeting a subject that's literally over our heads, bringing it down to Earth in an ambitious two-hour special.

Airing Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific, "Live From Space" will originate from the International Space Station with American astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata, who's Japanese, as on-board correspondents. (It will air on National Geographic Channel in 170 countries in all, on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom and on the Spanish-language Nat Geo MUNDO network.)

Veteran reporter Soledad O'Brien will anchor from NASA Mission Control in Houston.

O'Brien said she's excited about the special, and particularly happy to be hosting "Live From Space" from a comfortable distance.

"The moment I understood that I would be firmly on the ground and THEY would be firmly in space, and we would have an opportunity to do something that hasn't been done before, I was in," said O'Brien as she prepared to leave for Houston where, besides serving as a producer, she will preside alongside astronaut Mike Massimino, who has logged quite a few miles in space.

One of the many challenges of mounting a TV special like this: Its remote "studio" is 250 miles above the Earth's surface and hurtling through space at 17,500 miles per hour. During the span of the special, the space station (and viewers) will circle the planet and begin a second orbit, with dazzling dawn-to-dusk-to-nightscape views promised.

But staying connected won't be a snap. To fill any gaps when TV contact with the space station might be interrupted, and to supplement the special with background perspective, the on-site astronauts have been taping features for inclusion in the program.

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