Chris Alexander

On Engineering

NASA iPhone App

29th October, 2009

NASA recently announced that it has made available a free iPhone application for users to download. Not one to pass up on the latest hot app or on the latest space information, I had to give it a go.

The NASA app provides a wide range of information in the easy-to-use and accessible format that we’re used to with well-made iPhone applications.

The initial display consists of a very nice image-based layout providing links to pages on particular NASA missions. There’s a wide range of options available there, and you can search and even filter by topic which mission types you would like displayed on the homepage.

One of the things I love most about NASA is that as it is a publicly funded US Agency, it has a strategy to bring as much of its content as possible to Americans; they do this via the internet, and it benefits the world as a whole. This means you can view fantastic photos produced by NASA for its various missions for free online, and now you can get these images right on your iPhone with the Images tab of the NASA app.

Along with images, NASA has long been producing full HD videos associated with its missions, and you can access these too with the Videos tab. You can also check out text updates about missions through the Updates tab, which is taken from NASA’s wide range of RSS and syndicated content.

A Mission

Let’s check out what we can see in the various Missions. Here I have selected my favourite terrestrial orbiter, the International Space Station, but it’s well worth having a bit of an explore to see what information you can uncover.

Here is some great info on the ISS, such as how long it has been active, and a description of its purpose and results.

One of the coolest things I have seen is the app’s ability to plot the Space Station’s orbital location (or where it is currently floating over) on the Google Maps API in the iPhone SDK. I have been tracking the ISS’s location since it was first launched back in 1999, and for me this is the single most awesome and best mashup I have seen on the iPhone.

Here are some shots of the media available with a mission; starting with the pictures, and then a video. The videos are actually provided by YouTube embeds.


For me, this is an excellent iPhone app, and a brilliant way of bringing the wealth of data that NASA creates to the public, literally in the palms of their hands. I think this is one that I will be using for some time to come.

For more information on the app, you can check out these pages of the NASA website.