Two Russian astronauts took a record-breaking seven and a half hour spacewalk outside of the International Space Station, but were unable to successfully complete their mission: installing cameras that will allow anyone, anywhere to watch the Earth lazily spin against the inky black emptiness of space.

The Friday venture by Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky was the third spacewalk in a week at the orbiting laboratory. U.S. astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins performed two on Saturday and Tuesday to remove and replace a faulty cooling pump.

The Russians' task was aborted after a Russian flight control team outside of Moscow was unable to receive telemetry data from the video camera. The reason for that failure wasn't immediately clear.

But the mission wasn't a complete failure: Installation of a new seismic science experiment was a success, and is delivering telemetry to the ground. And the spacewalkers set a record for the longest Russian spacewalk ever, eclipsing the 7 hour, 29 minute record set on Aug. 16 by Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Alexander Misurkin.

"We have eclipsed the record today for the longest Russian spacewalk in history," reported mission control from Houston on NASA TV.

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The longest ever spacewalk was set by U.S. astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms, an epic 8 hour, 56 minute walk on March 11, 2001, mission control said.

Vancouver-based UrtheCast (pronounced “earthcast”) launched the cameras into orbit on Nov. 25 with the Russian's aid, with the goal of streaming images of the Earth back home in near-real time.

For free, Internet users will log on to anytime to see the beauty of the big blue ball we live on, as the cameras make the 90-minute revolution around Earth, 16 times a day. It's a sight few have ever seen before.


Once calibrated -- and this could take several months, said Scott Larson, CEO of UrtheCast -- the cameras will start beaming down images. For the first time, ordinary web surfers will see the Earth in space with a delay of only 45 minutes to a couple hours at the most (this accounts for the near-real time nature). 

The crisp resolution will let them see not only the Earth -- with all the accompanying weather patterns and seasonal changes -- but moving vehicles, large crowds, boats and buildings. Not only will viewers get the greatest panoramic view of all but they’ll be able to customize it too, locking on to their country, their state, their neighborhood when the cameras pan over that part of the world on rotation.

“Streaming video is a large amount of data that will have to reach Earth somehow, which will require a lot of bandwidth,” noted Austin Bradley, a Washington, D.C.-area space enthusiast who hopes one day to hitch a ride to Mars. Until then, he says that accessible video from space will definitely whet his appetite.

“For a lower cost than training as an astronaut and taking a weeklong vacation on the [ISS], it’s amazing that UrtheCast is bringing the opportunity to see Earth from the perspective that the few lucky astronauts in this world get to experience,” Bradley told