Baby Monitor Keeps an Eye on Astronauts

The Associated Press
Friday, June 15, 2007; 12:28 AM

PALATINE, Ill. -- An elementary school science teacher in this Chicago suburb doesn't have to turn on the news for an update on NASA's space mission. She just turns on her video baby monitor.

Since Sunday, one of the two channels on Natalie Meilinger's baby monitor has been picking up black-and-white video from inside the space shuttle Atlantis. The other still lets her keep an eye on her baby.

"Whoever has a baby monitor knows what you'll usually see," Meilinger said. "No one would ever expect this."

Live video of the mission is available on NASA's Web site, so it's possible the monitor is picking up a signal from somewhere.

"It's not coming straight from the shuttle," NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said. "People here think this is very interesting and you don't hear of it often _ if at all."

Doug Phelps, a member of an amateur radio club in neighboring Schaumburg, has an explanation.

His organization, the Illinois chapter of the Motorola Amateur Radio Club, rebroadcasts NASA video as a public service. It is likely the monitor is picking up the video because amateur radio operates on the same frequency as baby monitors.

Members of Phelps' club have picked up audio from baby monitors in the past.

"If you had a receiver in the right frequency, anybody in the public can pick up this signal," he said.

Meilinger silenced disbelieving co-workers by bringing in a video of the monitor to show her class on Tuesday, her students' last day of school. At home, 3-month-old Jack and 2-year-old Rachel don't quite understand what their parents are watching.

"I've been addicted to it and keep waiting to see what's next," Meilinger said.

Summer Infant, the monitor's manufacturer, is investigating what could be causing the transmission, communications director Cindy Barlow said. She said she's never heard of anything similar happening.

"Not even close," she said. "Gotta love technology."

© 2007 The Associated Press