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How to watch NASA TV on Linux

If you are in a hurry: point xine to this stream URL: If that doesn't work, try vlc, or mplayer.

These days, I find most of the solutions to my computer problems on Google. These myriads of faceless voices, scattered throughout forums, mailing lists, and blogs, have been a fantastic help. So I think it's only fair that, whenever I'm able to solve a problem on my own, and there's not a lot of well-organized information to find on the web, I should make a little write-up of what I did. This is one such write-up. It's meant for search engines; if you're reading this because you are subscribed to my blog, it's probably not going to be very interesting to you.

I am planning to watch the launch of STS-128 on NASA TV tomorrow morning. So I thought I'd prepare in advance. You see, the ordinary course of events when I want to watch a shuttle launch is something like the following:

  1. Going to the official NASA TV home page
  2. Getting redirected to Video Player Help. This page is of little help, because none of the pages that they want you to go to to download video player plug-ins offer an alternative for Linux. Also, when you try to navigate back, you just snap back again. Obviously they don't even want you to see the page in a browser that's not completely up-to-date with plug-ins.
  3. Googling for “nasa tv linux” and coming up blank.
  4. Asking around in IRC channels I hang out on: “Hey, anyone have a working stream URL for NASA TV ...?” Sometimes, miraculously, a fellow space geek will be on, and pass along a working URL, which I will then watch, and... (sigh) neglect to bookmark for the next launch. Other times, I'm not so lucky, which brings us to the final point:
  5. Missing out on the launch.

Obviously, this needed to be solved, so I don't have to suffer the indignity of step 4 ever again. Actually saving the URL for later is one part of the solution, but who knows if and when they're going to change it? So it needs to be something repeatable.

After some fiddling around with the browser, it turned out that turning off Javascript sufficed to not get redirected away from the NASA TV home page. After that, it was just a matter of hovering the links to find out that the one titled “Public Channel” points to the following Javascript snippet:

which I then pasted into a terminal, and trimmed out the superfluous bits, leaving only the .asx URL.

[Monday, Aug 24, 2009 @ 22:10] | [tech] | # | G