NASA’s Website connects everyday folks to the goings on of the universe (and the goings on of the American space agency that’s taxpayer-funded). The site is packed with information, and it delivers NASA’s day-to-day activities in a clean, intuitive, and visually compelling way. Now you can get all the information the Website offers on your iPhone or iPod touch through the free NASA app for iPhone.
The app gives you information about NASA missions, lets you view NASA images (from both NASA’s IOTD [Image of the Day] and APOD [Astronomy Picture of the Day]), gives you easy access to NASA TV videos, and lists NASA’s Twitter feeds.
On the Missions screen, you can tap Filter and then tap the star icon next to any type of mission you want to be informed about: Earth, Launch Schedules, Solar System, Universe, and more. By default, only a few are chosen.
Tap on Missions to get a visual, scrollable list of the various missions. Choose a mission, and you’re taken to a screen with a scrollable box of information about the mission. At the bottom, you’ll see a display of the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds that have passed since the mission was launched. Tap on the camera icon from within a particular mission, and images from that mission are displayed. Likewise, tap on the filmstrip icon to get a list of videos about the respective mission.
From the main app screen, tap on Images, and you get a screenful of thumbnails of NASA images. Click on an image to view it, either in portrait or landscape mode. (With the image in landscape mode, however, the navigation buttons do not move from their portrait position.) Tap the i button to get more info about a particular photo, and scroll to the bottom of the info pop-up screen to tap a link to NASA’s Website page about the photo. You can also save the images to your iPhone’s Camera Roll, for uploading elsewhere. (With the exception of NASA’s logo, NASA imagery is generally not copyrighted. So you are free to use it without permission in most instances, but just remember to give credit where credit is due.)
On the Updates screen, you can tap Filter and choose from a variety of feeds you’d like highlighted in your app: JPL’s Asteroid Watch, CassiniSaturn, NASA (which features news from NASA), SOFIAtelescope, and more.
The app lets you e-mail images, mission information, and videos to anyone you want. The e-mail contains all the information you see in the app, with a link to NASA’s Web page about the same mission, image, or video you passed along.
Whenever there is a new video, mission, image, or Twitter message, the app shows the familiar red badge next to the Missions, Images, Videos, and Updates icons. (You can’t turn the badges off for just the app itself. If you don’t want to see them, you need to turn them off for the iPhone in general, in Settings.)
So the next time you want to see your taxpayer dollars at work, give the NASA app a go, and co-explore new frontiers with NASA’s astronomers.
[Sue Voelkel is Macworld’s managing editor.]