Pokemon Go is no-go for the space station

Image: Pikachu in Pokemon
Pikachu may fly on a rainbow in space, but don’t expect to catch one on the International Space Station. (Credit: Pikachu via YouTube)

Astronauts have zapped virtual aliens on the International Space Station, using Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed-reality headset. So how about Pokémon Go, the latest craze in mixed-reality smartphone gaming? No-go, says NASA.

“It is not possible for astronauts to play,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot told GeekWire, in just one of many emails he’s been sending out today in response to press queries. “There is a small number of smartphones available on ISS which the crew use for science activities (like SPHERES), but not for personal use.”

The smartphones and tablets that are in use on the station don’t have internet connectivity, Huot explained. The astronauts have access only to the apps designed for the payloads they’re intended for, and can’t add apps as is typically done by smartphone users on Earth. If they need to use the internet – for example, to post snapshots on Twitter – they connect via laptops that are locked down in terms of cybersecurity.

“And as far as location services, the astronauts use ISS internal GPS data and custom applications to determine their location and position,” Huot said. “Location-based services we use here on Earth are not utilized.”

That means the space station’s navigation network couldn’t work with the Pokémon critters’ coordinates, even if the astronauts were connected to the game.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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