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Watch the real live shuttle launch from a virtual yacht

Watching the shuttle Discovery launch from your virtual TV on your virtual yacht in the middle of a virtual ocean is almost like being there.

If you're one of the many people who won't be able to watch the shuttle Discovery make her final launch into space from the front-row seats at the Kennedy Space Center — there's no need to panic. You can always watch it from your very own virtual yacht.

That is, NASA and Sony have announced that a live stream of the Thursday launch will be made available from within PlayStation Home — the online virtual world you can access from PlayStation 3 game machines. It will be the first live streaming event shown within Home.

Though, if you want to watch the shuttle launch from there, you're going to have to buy a boat. Specifically, you're going to have to buy the Sunset Yacht.

The good news is, the Sunset Yacht is cheaper than, say, a real yacht. But it'll still cost you $4.99. You can pick up this yacht – which becomes your own personal virtual space within PlayStation Home — at the LOOT Store in the PlayStation Home Mall.

Once you have the yacht, you can invite your Home friends and fellow PS3 gamers to bring their avatars to your ship so you can all watch the shuttle launch together virtually. It'll be streamed live via the NASA TV Channel onto a giant TV screen hanging in the middle of your boat.

In fact, here's a look at the virtual yacht and the virtual TV screen that could be yours (cue the cheesy music):

The shuttle launch currently is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. ET (1:50 PT). And, even if you and your friends are located in various places around the country, you can oooh and ahhh over the sight together right there on your yacht if you all have blue-tooth headsets connected to your PS3s.

"We're excited about this new way for people to experience the exhilaration of human spaceflight as part of a larger community," said NASA spokesman David Weaver in the press release. "In addition to the other two shuttle launches planned for April and June, NASA looks forward to sharing more of our endeavors with PlayStation users."

Of course, it's worth noting that if you don't want to shell out the $4.99 for a virtual yacht or you don't happen to have a PS3, you can always watch the Discovery launch for free right here on NASA's web site.

But, if you do decide to drop cash for your virtual boat, you will get some extra space-travelly goodness.

According to the press release, the Sunset Yacht's NASA TV channel will offer hundreds of videos that give you views from past and current NASA missions. There will also be a gallery of podcasts showcasing missions including the Mars Science Laboratory and Voyager spacecraft from the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

And if space travel isn't your thing, you can always watch clips of "Breaking Bad," "Charlie's Angels" and (I'm not making this up) "He Man and the Masters of the Universe" right there on your giant virtual TV screen, or perhaps simply enjoy the sights and sounds of the vast virtual ocean around you.

Ain't (virtual) life grand?

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Winda Benedetti writes about games  for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things right here on Twitter.