Space buffs can blast off with these must-have NASA iPhone and iPad apps

Feb 23, 2011
Tech

With NASA’s long-running space shuttle program winding down in the coming months, interest has peaked in attending one of the last few remaining launches at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Shuttle Discovery’s final mission (STS-133, its 39th) is scheduled to roar off the launch pad on February 24. With a trio of KSC on-site […]

With NASA’s long-running space shuttle program winding down in the coming months, interest has peaked in attending one of the last few remaining launches at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

Shuttle Discovery’s final mission (STS-133, its 39th) is scheduled to roar off the launch pad on February 24. With a trio of KSC on-site viewing tickets and an ultra-rare parking pass in tow, my family and I will be there to see the historic launch.

These tickets have been burning a hole in our pockets since Discovery’s first launch attempt was scrubbed back in November. But that week of waiting, keeping close tabs on the shuttle and its astronauts, was made easier, and much more fun and informative, with the help of a few iPad/iPhone and Android apps for our mobile devices.

Below are a solid set of iOS (iPad/iPhone) titles are a must-have for all serious space buffs, no matter where you’ll be watching these final launches from!

NASA App (Free)

In the days, weeks, and months leading up to a launch, this app will keep you and your family connected to NASA’s primary communication channels. I used this app to watch regular NASA TV updates on the shuttle launch and its myriad of technical issues. All current NASA activity updates from their official website and social media channels are just a finger-touch away, along with thousands of images, countdown clocks, International Space Station (ISS) visible pass data and satellite tracking, plus maps and links to every major NASA center are clearly displayed. An all-in-one app that’s a must-have for every space buff, and if you’re an iPad user, check out NASA App HD (Free) for the bigger screen experience.

Buzz Aldrin Portal to Science and Space Exploration ($1.99)

Old school NASA fans (think Mercury and Apollo) will be instantly “wowed” by this app. It’s all about looking back to the golden years of the space agency, through the eyes, ears, and voice of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. There’s video, photos, personal stories, and full details of every major NASA initiative and program from the early days through 2011 and Obama’s robotic plans for our future in space. Also linked is NASA TV, JPL, and many other important news sources.  Don’t miss the collection of must-check Twitter feeds from many space-centric sources. “It is… young people who are the generation that will take mankind’s next steps in exploring the frontiers of space,” said Aldrin in a recent interview. “This app is an amazing tool to both educate and entertain.”

READ  Home Security Maximized with These Apps

GoSkyWatch Planetarium – The Astronomy Star Guide ($3.99)

I’m always impressed when I come across an astronomy buff who can head outside at night and instantly point out the planets, constellations, and major stars hovering overhead. With GoSkyWatch, your iPhone or iPad steps in to fill your knowledge gaps, and turns your phone into a mobile planetarium. Simply load the app, tilt it towards the heavens, and you’re instantly presented with a real-time map of what’s above you. The constellations are clearly-drawn in handy stick-figure style, with a faint gray overlay of an artist’s impression. Major stars are labeled, along with dozens of other notable objects. Curious about a specific faint light in the sky? Just center it in the yellow circle. Text will pop up with all the relevant data. Want to go deeper? Tap the “i” button and even more information appears, along with a cross-link to Wikipedia. The icing on the cake? Search for any item in the sky, and the app will return you to the field view and show you how to find it in the heavens.

Star Walk – 5 Stars Astronomy Guide ($2.99)

In the same manner as GeoSkyWatch Planetarium, Star Walk makes it easy to point your iPhone at the sky and see what heavenly bodies are hovering above: stars, constellations, and satellites. You’ll need at least a 3GS iPhone or 4th generation iPod Touch to get the most out of this app, as there’s no motion tracking without one. No worries if you’re carrying older tech: the app also acts as a standalone, info-packed and time-sensitive interactive star atlas that still allows you to set your location manually to give you the most accurate picture.

READ  The Ultimate Guide to Phone Security

Twitter (Free)

Don’t laugh – you’ll want to stay glued to one source of information via your cell phone: @NASA’s official Twitter feed, which is also available in any browser at http://twitter.com/nasa. The social media crew at the space agency are gaga about Twitter, and you’ll want to tap-in to their latest updates during the weeks, months, days, and hours before any launch is set to occur. In fact, reading NASA’s tweets inside the official Twitter app on my iPhone phone was the way my family and I learned of the final November setback (the full scrub of STS-133) as we were heading down the highway from our hotel to Kennedy Space Center. It’s also the way we’ve been keeping tabs on the many meetings, fixes, and rescheduling conferences leading up to this week’s launch. Go, Discovery!

Download the free Appolicious app for iPhone

Search for more

Tim McLain

Tim McLain is a freelance writer and an online marketing manager, helping serious researchers and students find and make use of the best online content found on the deep Web. His passion for all things computers/tech started when he was a teenager, working with his twin brother to set up a C64 BBS in their bedroom.

    Home Apps Games