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Small Computer Tweets Location Of The International Space Station

A Raspberry Pi device pings users whenever the ISS is directly over their heads.

Rachel Pincus
Rachel Pincus on February 12, 2014.

Liam Kennedy, a video producer and amateur astronomer, is fascinated with space and the stars, and he wants to bring that connection to the younger generations who have largely turned to more earthly pursuits. And what better way to do this than with the tiny, inexpensive portable computer known as the Raspberry Pi? Kennedy’s pet project the ISS-Above, now gathering funds through Kickstarter, is a tiny device that alerts you to the International Space Station (ISS)’s movements over your location.

The device takes full advantage of the Raspberry Pi platforms’s open-source flexibility. Using a memory card pre-loaded with your location (which will be sent to you if you pledge $42 to the project) it can integrate an LED to alert you of the space station’s presence.  The case is available in several different colors, including some swanky 3D-printed options, and the simpler options on Kickstarter provide you with certain individual components, perfect should an enterprising programmer want to incorporate ISS-Above’s functionality into a different or more complex device. Should you choose one of these options, one of the devices in Pasadena, CA will automatically tweet you a thank-you message when the ISS passes over it.

ISS-Above-Ginger-7

Many commenters on CNet asked of the advantage to the end-user such a device has over space tracker apps like Space Junk, or even Spot the Station, the free NASA e-mail service that can notify you of the movements of the ISS. Kennedy responded that he is a believer in the curiosity that an object like the ISS-Above can bring about. ”This is something that sits on a shelf.. in your house… at the office… at the coffee shop (there really is a coffee shop in Pasadena, CA that has one).”

It provides public knowledge and stimulates togetherness in a world where people have an unprecedented ability to tailor their daily information intake to a narrow set of interests. ”It just does its job of making a general fuss that EVERYONE can see as the Space Station gets near.  It gets you and those who can see it aware of what is going on a few hundred miles above you,” he wrote.

On a trip to England, he brought the device to his grandkids, and now Kennedy is keeping track of the spread of the device around the world with a map and the device’s Twitter. The project has 27 days to reach its backing goal of $5000; you can contribute here.

ISS-Above

Sources: Kickstarter, CNet

Images: ISS-Above Blog

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