Shuttle site a space odyssey

NASA launched the space shuttle Atlantis along with a new shuttle World Wide Web site on Jan. 12 the birthdate of the mythical HAL computer in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001. While the Web site (shuttle.nasa.gov) does not sing "Daisy Daisy Give me your answer do... " it does have other bells and whistles.

As slick - if not slicker - than any commercial destination the page offers surfers the panoply of multimedia options available on the Web including audio as well as still and full-motion video. Unlike some commercial sites NASA delivers the steak as well as the sizzle. A well-equipped user can tap into live audio or video from the shuttle and the live telemetry stream from Atlantis as it orbits the Earth.

The well-organized home page provides viewers with a summary of each day's activities in succinct text accompanied by a relevant photo. NASA offers a list of hot links allowing easy access to text overviews of current mission status payloads the mission time line and crew biographies. This menu bar also provides easy access to the multimedia tools and real-time data including the same kind of real-time tracking display used by the Atlantis crew on their portable laptops. This display updated every 45 seconds shows a stylized orbiter on its flight path around the Earth.

For more detail click on the Telemetry Data button which will pop up a page that displays real-time longitude and latitude altitude apogee and perigee as well as the temperature of the shuttle's cabin (78 degrees when I checked on Flight Day Three).

The real power of the redesigned shuttle site is in its links and the ease with which NASA transports the user from the main page to other relevant sites. This page serves as an interactive window into the entire history of NASA's manned space flight program. All it takes is a few clicks to jump from live chit-chat between the Atlantis crew and mission control to archival data and photos of John Glenn's first flight on the Mercury capsule.

Based upon the counter on the NASA shuttle site many folks still want to tap into the dream turned reality of manned space flight. The site recorded a half-million hits in less than 24 hours after Atlantis' launch.

Inaugural On-Line

The Web page set up for today's 53rd presidential inauguration is worth a visit. This site (www.inaugural97.org/index.htm) illustrates a growing trend to use Web technology to provide yet another dimension to one-shot events.

The sparsely designed inaugural home page offers users a bunch of button bars surrounding the 1997 inaugural seal. These buttons allow surfers to tap into a wealth of information about the current inaugural as well as inaugurals past. For anyone tired of the stage managing that surrounds practically every event of the 1990s it's worthwhile to click on the American Classroom button and from there click down to a recounting of Andrew Jackson's inauguration in 1829 at which the ball "has been recorded by history as a raucous event that showed little discipline or culture."

Future inaugural Web sites probably will recall that the 1997 event also set some pre-cedents of its own - mainly the copyrighting of practically everything involved including the Web site which carried the legal warning that "the marks on this Web site are owned by the Presidential Inaugural Committee-1997. Unauthorized use or reproduction may constitute infringement." Since the committee already has threatened to send U.S. marshals after unlicensed T-shirt vendors one wonders if they will take the same approach to Web-ites who print out multiple copies of the (copyrighted) seal on the office printer.

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