When we talk about startups that develop mobile apps, we usually don’t consider global organizations, except Apple or Google. However, some of such organizations, like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) well deserve a separate article. This agency sent a human to the Moon, launched Apollo, Space Shuttle programs, the International Space Station, and a number of interplanetary and the Earth observation spacecrafts. Having said that, I’d say NASA literally pushes the mankind forward.
Its core mission is “to investigate and explore space and the Earth environment, and to help make our planet a better place.” Since NASA deals with tasks of a planetary scale, it attracts the best minds of the world to its projects.
Confucius once said: "Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand." NASA uses social media channels, as well as mobile apps to not only tell the world about its findings, but also involve people in its activities.
But what’s even more effective in terms of spreading the knowledge of the world is NASA mobile apps. In fact, NASA has almost 50 applications for iOS and Android, and a number of Research & Development centers in the US. The apps include games, news, weather, TV & video content, augmented reality, fun, and educational apps which all come for free.
We decided to share with you educational, video and content, and augmented reality applications that NASA provides to the users all over the world.
Educational apps by NASA
The idea behind NASA educational mobile applications is to show what the agency is working on, and teach users how our planet can benefit from their projects. NASA’s apps are a great source of general and specific knowledge of the Earth and space environment – something you can’t access quite easily. Here are some of the NASA’s educational apps:
NASA Visualization Explorer – See the world and space through the prism of research satellite
NASA Visualization Explorer is, according to its description, ‘the coolest way to get stories about advanced space-based research’. The app won the People's Choice award for Games & Apps at the 2015’s Vizzies.
It represents a news feed with short pieces of news about our planet and space environment as they are seen by various spacecrafts orbiting the Earth. Each story includes up to five photos and videos that make it possible for general public to get a realistic picture of the space. The app is available for iPhone and iPad.
NASA Spinoff – Number of NASA’s technologies that are widely used in our everyday life
NASA Spinoff is an app with the motto “There’s more space in your life than you think.”
It profiles a list of articles published by NASA’s Technology Transfer Program about the application of the technologies that were once used in the NASA’s missions for the purpose of development of commercial products and services for a range of industries from automotive, agriculture, and aviation to sports and healthcare. The app is available for iPad.
Launch Services Program Activity Book – Develop a sense of exploration, love to math, and engineering in your child
Launch Services Program Activity Book is a family app which represents an interactive digital activity book.
24 NASA-inspired ‘color-me’ pictures, word search, asteroid maze, solar system match, planet crossword, and many more puzzles won’t let a young explorer get bored. The app is available for iPad and Android.
Space365 – Connect your memorable days with the most important happenings in the space exploration
Space365 is a fun app that lets anybody see which NASA events happened each day of the year. Over 4,000 events (updated weekly) with corresponding photos and links to more detailed information make Space365 a truly education-with-fun app. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
Rocket Science 101 –Feel like a NASA mission program manager taking control of its various aspects
The Rocket Science 101 app offers users to select a NASA mission, match it with an available rocket, and send the spacecraft into orbit.
While doing that, they will learn the components of a space mission in the form of an easy, educative, and step-by-step adventure. The NASA's Launch Services Program does the same thing but for real rockets and exciting spacecraft missions every day.
The app’s three levels of difficulty - Have Fun, Challenge Yourself, and Rocket Scientist - are for both young and adult users. The app is available for iPhone and iPad.
NASA Earth As Art - Enjoy the beauty of the Earth
The NASA Earth As Art app celebrates Earth’s aesthetic glory in patterns, shapes, colors, and textures. Photos of the continents, oceans, ice, and atmosphere are taken from a fleet of NASA’s Earth imaging spacecraft. The app is available for iPad.
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News, imaging and video content apps
These are informational applications that provide you with large amount of Earth, planets, stars, and galaxies’ imaging, real-time or recorded videos, news, weather information, latest and scheduled events, as well as different facts, studies and researches.
If you’re involved in space or space-related industry, enthusiastic about space exploration, or dream of travelling to the outer space one day, you can get an easy access to up-to-date information about recent achievements and plans of NASA, one of the most influential organizations in the world. Some of the apps in this category include:
NASA App – All about NASA in one app
NASA App is a primary NASA mobile app that invites users to explore and discover the latest things that the agency is working on. The app includes 9 sections - Missions, Images, Videos, Tweets, TV & Radio, News & Features, Centers, Featured, Programs, that cover all aspects of NASA activity. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
NASA Television – All NASA’s video content in your mobile device.
The NASA Television app brings live and on-demand TV content featuring the latest NASA events. Application allows users to watch live or select video-content from a recently uploaded list of videos, as well as plan viewing up to a week in advance with the NASA TV schedule. The app is available for iPhone and iPad.
ISSLive – Feel as if you’re aboard the orbital station.
The ISSLive app allows users to see what the crew on the board of the International Space Station is doing right now, what the temperature of each of the orbiting outpost modules is, and how much power is being generated at this very instant by the space station's solar array wings. This NASA’s mobile application consists of six sections offering users a new inside look at what is happening aboard the International Space Station and in the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
Space Images – Gallery of exciting NASA images
The Space Images app discovers stunning images and videos of space, stars and planets. You can rate them, watch in HD quality, and share with your friends in social media. You can filter images by the Latest, Top Rated, Favorited, or by Category. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
Earth-Now – Earth ‘health’ status visually available in your phone
The Earth-Now application visualizes recent global climate data from the Earth Science satellites, including air temperature, atmosphere composition, ozone layer status, as well as gravity and sea level variations. Data sets are visually described using "false color" maps.
Color-coded legends are provided to indicate relative strength or weakness of an environmental condition. The resulting 3D model of the Earth may be rotated by a single finger stroke, and may also be zoomed in or out by pinching 2 fingers. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
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These applications are of educational content. Each of them features exploitation of augmented reality technologies that excite and attract users, making them feel real involvement in the state-of-the-art spacecraft, rockets, and their operations. I think no description would be able to tell you more than the following applications once you download and start using them:
Spacecraft 3D – A real three dimensional spacecraft right in front of your eyes!
The Spacecraft 3D is an augmented reality application that lets you interact with a variety of spacecrafts used to explore our solar system, study the Earth, and observe the Universe. How?
Download and print an AR Target, put it on your table or anywhere else, point the camera of your mobile device on the Target, and you will see Mars Curiosity rover, or Hubble telescope right in front of you! Moreover, all the Mars, Earth, Planetary, and other exploring spacecrafts in the app can move. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
NASA’s mobile apps aren’t limited to the products we briefly described in this article. Some of the administration’s apps are rather old and have not been renovated for years, others replicate the above-mentioned applications. There are also iOS and Android apps that are too specific (e.g. an app that describes one particular spacecraft).
Here we tried to include only the apps that could be used in our everyday-life for fun, education, news gathering, and practical exploitation. Maybe they will inspire you to build your own app with a similar purpose!
What can we learn from NASA?
NASA employs state-of-the-art and innovational technologies to promote itself. Other than mobile apps, it actively spreads its content and ideas through social media, fairs and contests, conferences and meetings with people, particularly youth. All this allows NASA to be one of the most popular governmental bodies in the world.
We think NASA’s approach could and should be followed by any other governmental, non-profit, research and educational organizations in the world. Tell everybody about yourself and what you do, attract as many people as possible, involve them in your activities, and let them be part of your team. Isn’t it a recipe of success of Google, or Apple, or Facebook? It seems like NASA is one of the chefs who wrote it.
In the next articles, we’ll focus on space-based technologies that make our life easier and can be used in mobile app development. These technologies include navigation, Earth imaging, satellite telecommunications, meteorology, and others, introduced by NASA and other world’s space agencies and organizations.
We’ll also dwell on augmented and virtual reality in our future blog posts.