NASA App for iPhone is Dazzling, Informative

On October 20, NASA launched its iPhone (and iPod touch) app. The app is designed, in one coherent place, to introduce the user to NASA and provides an overview of NASA news, missions and goals. It includes a boatload of stunning imagery, photos and videos -- and does it with plenty of visual inspiration.

The home page introduces the user to the NASA missions and one can set a filter. For example, Earth focused, Moon and Mars, Solar System or the International Space Station (ISS) and Constellation program (Ares launch vehicle, Orion spacecraft, etc). One can chose all or just one.

NASA missions

Selected Missions

Once you select a mission, you can select (at the top of the screen) news updates, photos or videos. Any item can be dropped into an e-mail. If applicable, like the ISS, one can click the globe icon to see the current position over the Earth.

ISS over Earth

ISS over Earth

If you'd like to jump right into images and videos, there are buttons on the tab bar at the bottom of the home screen. Or you can elect to search by keyword or exact phrase. Tabs allow the focus on NASA Images of the Day (IOTD) or Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). Once you select a photo, you can drop it into your camera roll or e-mail it. Each stunning photo is accompanied by an info page with background data.


What is Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter?

Videos are all extracted from YouTube, and that's where NASA had a slight mission failure. For example, the LCROSS impact as captured by the Mount Wilson Observatory gives an error: "This movie format is not supported." So a little tweaking will be required to make sure all the linked videos are H.264 and not Flash. Other than that, I didn't find any problems.

This is one of those apps in "App Space," one that offers an instant focus and a drill down. One starts with the general notion, "What is NASA doing?" From there, one can dig into missions, news, mission goals, photographic results, and get an instant storylog. That's better than just rummaging around in a haphazard way.

The NASA app for iPhone was released October 20th, is free (paid for by the taxpayers who support NASA), and requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later. For the iPod touch, the 2G or later model is required.


Astronomy Imagery

This one's a no brainer: public information about our space program, free, and with breathtaking photos and videos. Inspiration at no additional cost.