Reaching new frontiers has always been the mindset at ESPN. Hence, the network is working with NASA to supply an automated feed of content to astronauts living and working at the International Space Station. That effort reached a new level this week when astronaut and former U.S. Navy Seal Chris Cassidy read an introduction of SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays” from space.
“ESPN’s mission is to serve sports fans any time, anywhere,’’ said Todd Myers, director Programming & Acquisitions. “Now we have the opportunity to serve sports fans in space – the final frontier if you will. It’s really out of this world that we’re able to do this.”
Through an agreement earlier this year, NASA delivers recorded SportsCenter shows to the Space Station.
ESPN has been working to expand on that and will begin supplying a daily feed of SportsCenter starting in mid-September.
Tony Gentile, senior director Content Systems and Technology Integration, who leads the technical aspects of creating the feed for space station residents, said the request from NASA to ESPN was to compile viewable versions of SportsCenter, Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption for the astronauts.
His team has been happy to comply.
“They can watch the links on their iPads,’’ said Gentile. “Anything we can do to keep astronauts connected is the aim.”
Gentile said astronauts have rudimentary Internet access far from Earth – “like dial-up” – thus content is consumed locally, on demand.
Files of ESPN programs without commercials are sent to NASA. Abridged programs can be viewed by astronauts at their leisure, whenever that time may be.
“It’s exciting for us to be involved,’’ Gentile said. “We realize there’s no night and day up there, so the astronauts probably keep really strange hours. We’re happy to help bring some normalcy to life on the space station and also help them stay in touch with home.”
This isn’t the first time ESPN and NASA have worked together. Space Shuttle Discovery commander Ken Ham brought a “best-of” CD with a greeting from Mike and Mike on a May 2008 flight. During that mission, Ham and crew were guests on Mike and Mike as the shuttle flew over Connecticut.
Ham then appeared in studio the following year with the Mikes when he visited ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters to preview a new shuttle launch experience that ESPN was creating as part of its exhibits at the city’s Imagine Nation children’s museum.
The honor was repeated when Ham, commander of the second-to-last flight of Atlantis, brought the sports network into orbit again with ESPN 3D glasses.
In January 2013, Commander Kevin Ford, a graduate of Notre Dame, did a shout out for his alma mater from the space station for ESPN’s BCS title pre-game show.
As for the latest version of the link between NASA and ESPN, there will be one unique element relating to Cassidy, a native of Salem, Mass.
“He is a Patriots and Bruins fan,’’ said Gentile. “So we might even be sending particular games to space in the future.”