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Liftoff, And You Are There … Video Cameras Will Provide View

Astronauts rave about the view from inside a space shuttle. The launches are powerful, full of vibrations and bright lights. The landing is like being in the middle of an ever-changing colorful fireball.

This week that “driver’s-seat” view from the shuttle can be yours, courtesy of new miniature video cameras broadcasting from inside the shuttle Columbia.

The launch is scheduled for Thursday at 7:49 a.m., but could be delayed because of bad weather. NASA came up with the idea to use the video cameras “so that the people who paid for the space program would have a little access to it,” said NASA Television Executive Producer Joe Benton.

This is not science, he said. It’s public relations.

NASA bought four $2,500 minicameras, and astronauts are using them to give viewers the up-close and personal view of a $450 million shuttle ride.

Astronauts helped dream up the camera idea because they are often asked what it’s like to launch or land a shuttle, said NASA spokesman James Hartsfield.

“Everyone seems to want to know that,” Hartsfield said. “This seems like a relatively inexpensive way of answering that curiosity.”

During the launch, one camera will show Cmdr. Tom Henricks, pilot Kevin Kregel and the view outside.

“There will be a lot of shaking,” Kregel said. Then the video will show a bright flash when the rocket boosters separate from Columbia, he said.

That launch video won’t be seen live, but will be replayed four to six hours after launch. The landing, however, will be broadcast live from the flight deck. Starting 13 minutes before landing - July 7 at 5:51 a.m. - a camera will show the pilot’s view.