NASA iPhone App Review

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When it comes to getting its message out to users of the over 160 million iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices, NASA has done a good job. And a nice bonus is that all of the NASA apps are free.

Opening the NASA iPhone app first takes you to the Missions that NASA is currently undertaking. At the top of the list is the Shuttle launch schedule, so no more fishing around for Shuttle launch manifest at dinner. The next in the Missions list is “Sighting Opportunities”. Selecting this will take you to a list of dates and times where you can see the ISS and Shuttle overhead. But here’s where a problem occurs. You would think that in sightings there would be a link to a map showing your position and the orbit of ISS for the selecting sighting. But unfortunately, you’d be mistaken. To get the orbit of the ISS, you need to select ISS from the Missions list, and then select the little globe tab on the bottom left-hand side. And lastly, for those following the progress of Project Constellation, Constellation is still included in the list of NASA’s Missions.

The Images section of the iPhone app includes images from NASA Image of the Day (IOTD), Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), and NASA Images (NASAIMG)…gotta love acronyms. The main page contains image thumbnails, though on the iPhone 4 they are mauled in the downscaling. Still, the images themselves are high resolution, looking great on an iPhone 4. And any images you find can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, email or saved to your iPhone’s Photos. The question I have is why the Dryden photos are not part of the NASA images?

Go to the Video section and you’ll at first see a list of what looks like past NASA TV videos. Tap on the little “Filter” button on the upper right-hand corner and you can increase the types of videos available; there are 15 choices ranging from AresTV to ReelNASA, which had a video by Scott Kelly of the food and drinks available for ISS crew members. Bet few know that Etouffee is available on ISS! And just as in the Images section, videos can be shared through Facebook, Twitter or email.

The news updates area, like the video section, allows you to filter the news you get. There are plenty of choices including news releases from NASA centers, Asteroid Watch, to WISE. And, guess what, you can share any news article you like via…you got it, Facebook, Twitter, and email. That NASA has embraced social media in its iPhone app is obvious. And welcome.

The NASA TV section of its iPhone app is nicely done. The NASA TV 2-day schedule is visible when the NASA TV tab is first selected. And the user is presented with two viewing options; the main feed and an alternate feed. One of the very nice features NASA’s iPhone developers made use of was the ability to go back in the NASA TV feed’s time by 30 second increments. So that means if you catch something on NASA TV you like, you can roll back a minute and a half, at least in my attempts, to catch more of it.

The NASA iPhone app is a good solid app that makes use of several of the built-in capabilities of the iPhone. Since the NASA iPhone app is only at version 1.34, hopefully the small issues with the app, such as tracking info but no map, will be covered in future updates. Until then, its a good, general app for following what is going on with the U.S. space program.

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