ISS Skydiving

You’re doing the social distancing thing, you’re wearing your mask, you’re staying home more. You need fresh amusements. Here you go. Totally free. Works best on a large screen.

Open a browser and three tabs.

The ISS livestream

The tracking map
You’ll want to turn on city names and borders.
Gear icon at top left > Gear icon in pop-up menu > go to bottom, change Map Options from satellite to hybrid > click top gear icon to close.
Zoom map in and out with mouse wheel or +/- icons.

Google maps

Now watch for views of land on the ISS livestream. This is the hardest part. 71% of Earth is ocean. Half of it is dark at any given time. Then there are clouds. Be patient.

During land passes, watch for particularly interesting features. When you see a place so interesting you *must* check the ground view, jump!


Check the tracking map. Note where you are.
Match that view in Google Maps. Zoom in as needed.
(A screenshot of your chosen jump point on the livestream and tracking map can be helpful for this step)

After you zoom down to the area that interests you in Google Maps, take your little orange figure at bottom right. Left-click on it, drag and drop it on a road highlighted in blue or a blue dot photobubble.

Left-click and drag the mouse to look around. What do you see?


Watching the livestream over Ankang, China, 343 miles northwest of Wuhan, I see what appears to be smoke rising from fires…

A check of the region in Himawari’s near-real-time view…

…shows clouds in the area too…

Let’s jump!

Street view options in China tend to be sparse.

Of course, Street View and photobubbles won’t show a real time view. Were the clouds we saw fires or cirrus clouds formed by local conditions and topography? Google Maps can’t tell us.

But it will tell us something about the people who live in the area, the conditions they live in, the local climate, economic development, etc.

Jump into Ankang, we find…

A roadside rest stop at sunset in 2018 with a nationalist poster, a clingy lover, and a Shell station.

A pedestrian bridge over Xiba Road in downtown Angkang, festooned with spring flowers.

A concrete stairway and mountain forest.

Yes, it’s random, but that’s part of the charm. You don’t know what you’ll get. Sometimes it will be mundane, sometimes mysterious, sometimes surprising and even amazing.

You have a whole planet to explore. Begin in orbit and jump when curiosity strikes.




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