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To Infinity & Beyond - NASA on Android

written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 8/29/2011
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For explorers everywhere, NASA is the ultimate organization to learn more about our skies and stars. And now, the official NASA app for Android has landed, but will it give you what you want?

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    End of an Era

    For many of us within the US, the final landing of the Atlantis space shuttle truly was the end of an era. The return marked the end of our space shuttle program, a program that began thirty years ago with the first space shuttle Columbia. Over the years that we have sent men and women traveling through the cosmos, we've seen great things and lost great people. I still remember the Challenger disaster, which happened in 1986.

    With the return, many wonder if this is it for NASA and our space program. While many of us can't go down and ask directly, we can discover some interesting facts and news thanks to the official app.

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    Concept & Features

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    To Infinity & Beyond - NASA on Android 

    The concept of the NASA app is simple -- keep those on Android phones up to date on what's going on with our space program. While the shuttle program may have stopped, there's still a long history of men, women, and robots going to the moon and with the app, you can get updates, news, and even see what's happening on TV.

    The features of the app include the upcoming mission schedule, NASA TV, information about the space centers, and videos. Many will enjoy the sighting schedule, where you can see when a satellite or other shuttle will be overhead in your neighborhood by date and time, as well as some of the images from missions and the centers, plus some interesting interviews with the astronauts and employees of NASA.

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    User Interface

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    To Infinity & Beyond - NASA on Android The user interface of the app is simple. The home screen allows you to choose which feature you'd like to go too, while each option has its own section as well. The different selections are -

    • Missions - allows you to view the upcoming NASA schedule, as well as giving information on satellites and orbiters that are currently in space.
    • Videos - watch videos regarding NASA, such as a quick tour of the orbiter processing facility, spot changes, and satellite photos of weather changes. As of this date, the current footage is of Hurricane Irene.
    • News & Features - news and information in regards to not only NASA, but also Earth, the moon, and other points about our solar system and the technology behind sending us into the stars.
    • NASA IOTD - NASA's image of the day shows various images from planet and moon surfaces, as well as launches and people.
    • Tweets - Tweets from NASA's Twitter feeds for its centers.
    • Centers - NASA centers around the states.
    • APOD - astro pick of the day section.
    • NASA TV - view videos from NASA, as well as programming that is currently on that talks about NASA.
    • Featured - a featured article or news about various space-related issues.
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    App Itself

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    To Infinity & Beyond - NASA on Android 

    While the concept and features of the app are great, there is something lacking. First is the seeming bugginess -- several times the app went weird on me, such as not showing images either on the homepage or the image of the day or astro pick of the day. This of course could be my phone, however, the app should work perfectly on Android 2.2 phones, such as mine (Samsung Transform).

    Another big disappointment was the NASA TV. None of the videos listed could be viewed -- in fact, the streaming videos, which shouldn't have been an issue, wouldn't stream at all, instead giving off a weird mobile version of snow and a blank screen. Even my Flash videos didn't work, which is odd in itself as my phone is capable and has Flash installed.

    It also seemed as though only one video could be seen, which defeats the purpose when we get snippets of interviews and others in the video section.

    I did enjoy the ability to view when a satellite would pass over my area (as seen by the picture to the right). I personally didn't see anything in the sky, though it could easily be said that I was not in the correct area or that maybe I missed the passing by minutes.

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    Bottom Line

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    Overall, the NASA app is pretty good for those who still have a love of learning about our place in space. Again, the features and interface are fairly good, the app itself could definitely use an update at some point to make sure that it's a bug-free official app and not a beta app. The one feature that really needs updating is the NASA TV section, which is seriously lacking when compared with the other features.

    The NASA app can be found easily at the Android Market.

    [Download Link]

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