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NASA, Now On The iPhone

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 12/29/2009

Learn about the new source for constant NASA news.

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    Bring NASA Right To Your iPhone

    For many amateur astronomers and space enthusiasts NASA is the central hub of sky watching. For U.S. based stargazers NASA is our most relevant scientific institution to look toward. Traditionally this is the main source for space exploration and research, and a constant stream of news and information about NASA programs will be almost enough to keep the most committed astronomy nut excited. As we switch to a mobile technological society we are now seeing that all the relevant institutions have to make themselves accessible in a form that is easily worked with on a mobile phone. The iPhone is easily leading the way in this trip, and now NASA has brought its informational portal right to your mobile.Figure 0 - The NASA App splash screen 

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    The NASA free iPhone application is an informational database for those interested in the agency. What they end up benefiting from the most is that it maintains itself in a mobile format where a constantly updated stream of information is coming in from NASA. The NASA free iPhone application is actually broken down into three prime sections: Missions, Images, and Video. The most extensive of these sections is Missions where you get an in depth profiling of different NASA engagements. The Mission section of this starts with a Launch Schedule, which is perfect for those who want a hand held influx of information so that they can keep up with the different launches that are occurring regularly. This is actually posted in a blog format with relevant information for the NASA launch, such as the launch site, the specifics about the vehicle that will be going up, and what exact NASA Mission it ties into.


    There are dozens of Mission pages on this list, ranging from the Interstellar Voyager Mission to the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Each page will give a run down on exactly how that NASA Mission works, and on many there will be detailed statistics and fact sheets. These are quick informational blasts, but for those that want a clean understanding of all relevant NASA supported Mission this will be a perfect primer.

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    Images and Videos


    The Images section is less defined and is often a series of random images generated by NASA. These really vary in interest as you will range from press release images to those taken from important installations like the Ocean Surface Topography Mission. The Videos section tends to be this way as well, but it will have a few interesting short clips. This follows the model of brevity that iPhone developers have had, but for quick video updates this may just be perfect for you. Do not expect that complex video documentation will ever be a part of this model, so try to match this with a return to the actual NASA website from your computer.

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    An Updates section will keep things streaming in on a regular basis, yet it is just a news feed controlled by NASA. This is going to be the most reasonable way to have a readily available news stream for all important Missions that are taking place currently, as well as any major developments. Many of the news feeds from the Updates section will link you to websites outside of the NASA page so this is not going to be as reasonable for those just running on the 3G network, but for more stable content from the Missions and Videos section you will have almost constant access.IMG 0005 You can work to customize the updates to a certain degree with the Filter function, which allows you to begin to customize your mobile relationship with NASA. The update information does stream in a blog format, much like the other functions, and you can utliize the "push" features in the iPhone settings for it.

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    Special Features

    What makes the NASA free iPhone application great for home astronomers and space buffs is that there is a miniature encyclopedia of information about NASA readily available in it. The brief descriptions of the NASA Missions alone is crucial for those who want to stay aware of what the agency is doing. This turns it into a pocket guide for all things NASA and allows you to keep up to date during this process. The features that the iPhone actually has built in also allow the application to be better than just the sum of its parts because you can begin to utilize the map and GPS functions to get a more localized feel for Missions and launches.