The commercialization of space is already well upon us. Russia has offered “joy rides” to the International Space Station (ISS) for millionaires, Virgin Galactic has been created to support space tourism via technology demonstrated by SpaceShipOne and now a new Canadian, Russian and UK space venture will bring high-definition streaming video of Earth to personal computers and mobile phones. The venture is called UrtheCast which is pronounced “Earth Cast.”UrtheCast plans to offer video data and imagery of Earth from space which will be down-linked to ground stations and displayed in real-time on the Internet. The company’s website promises to feel like a blend of Google Earth with the video playback and search functionality of YouTube which includes the ability to search for video by location, type or theme. Users will also be able to interact with video through the ability to rewind and fast forward, zoom in and out and virtually steer the camera from side to side. The website will also provide users the ability to track the location of the ISS to anticipate when it is expected to fly over a specific geographic area.To support this platform, UrtheCast has contracted Rutherford Appleton Labs to build two high-definition cameras which it will attach to the Russian module of the ISS. The cameras include a medium-resolution camera designed to provide a three color image which is capable of covering 45 kilometers with a resolution of 5.5 meters. The second, high-resolution camera is designed to allow for images of man-made objects and groups of people with a resolution comparable to Google Earth at a frame rate of 3.25 frames per second. In addition to the website, UrtheCast will also offer a smartphone application and an open API for third party developers to integrate video into their own applications. Seamless integration with Facebook and Twitter is also planned so that video may be shared among users.UrtheCast will officially launch its ambitious project in Calgary on June 28th.Read more at the press release (PDF) and UrtheCast website.Brian’s OpinionWell, this is what the Obama administration wants. They would like the commercialization of space to take root as demonstrated by the retirement of the Space Shuttle program and seed money to encourage the development of commercial means of travel to and from Earth orbit. Americans need first to admit though that the Russians are way ahead of us when it comes to this goal. After all, we are looking to them to act as a paid taxi service to the ISS until another commercially viable option for transportation is available.When Russia first started giving rides to millionaires many people and organizations, including NASA, scoffed at the idea. In reality, NASA grew to accept it since Russia does own a piece of the ISS–it’s that very piece of the ISS that UrtheCast will be attaching their cameras to. Of course, you have to wonder if the U.S. even got an opportunity to bid on such a deal or if the consideration of such a deal was viewed as below acceptance by NASA and the U.S. government.Personally I believe, we need more deals like the Russians are getting. At this point, considering the national debt, I’d be all for selling the naming rights of the American owned sections of the ISS to the highest bidder in the same way arenas are named here on Earth. Clearly, we need to open our minds up more to the subsidizing of space travel by commercial means. Who knows? Decades from now we could all be talking about the U.S. manned mission to Mars… as sponsored by Pepsi.