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MSU is the control center for the LFRF productions, and so at the same time it is receiving video from the Amazon, it is also receiving video from the various classrooms around the country which will be participating in the show, as well as from the Smithsonian Institution and NASA’s Classroom of the Future in West Virginia. Not to mention the live MSU studio segments with Camile McCue, the host of the program. Far-flung video feeds, graphics, tape pieces, host segments—all this has to be knitted together on the fly to make one, one-hour Live from the Rainforest broadcast, and everybody needs to be able to talk to each other during the course of the show. As the live show progresses minute by minute, the production crew assembles the pieces of a Live from the Rainforest broadcast, a few minutes from the Amazon, now switch to a tape piece about spiders, now over to Austin classroom for a question, oh, trouble with the Austin video, quick switch back to Amazon camera two. How does it all work? I have NO idea, it’s MUCH more complicated than satellite engineering!

But it does no one any good if the only people who see the show are the production crew at Mississippi State. So, the by-now well-traveled signal has one more trip to make, another satellite hop. Remember the point-to-multipoint TV example? That’s right, this time, the live signal finally gets treated like a real-live television program: transmitted up to a U.S. commercial communications satellite and then broadcast down to any earth station—that is, satellite TV dish—that can point and tune in to it. These dishes (not quite the same as home TV receivers) are located in classrooms, universities, science museums, NASA centers, and even other television stations, which can further distribute the signal over their own TV broadcast antennas or cable systems.

Oh, and there will be at least one more round-trip, back to the Amazon! One of the uplinks will be to an international communications satellite, which also services both North and South America. This allows the show, from the Amazon, via Mississippi, to also be carried back throughout Brazil, live, over the Brazilian television station, TV Cultura. Back here in the rainforest, then, not more than a few feet from our scientist guests answering questions live on camera, will be a small satellite TV dish tuned to TV Cultura, and “Live from the Rainforest.” Dubbed into Portuguese, of course!

So now, when you’re sitting at home or in class, watching the Live from the Rainforest programs on your TV with its cable connection or even old-fashioned rabbit-ears antenna, think about how easy it is to just be able to use the TV remote control!For more information on NASA’s ACTS program, check out their home page at http://acts.grc.nasa.gov/.

Ann’s Journals Satellite TV 101    1     2     3     4