October 31, 2014

Best Space Science Apps?

The following list is focused on iOS (iPad/iPhone) devices only because I don’t have direct experience with modern non-iOS mobile devices. For space/science app recommendations for any other platform, visit Spacevidcast.com’s mobile applications list.

Let’s start with the free stuff, shall we? These free apps actually rival some of the commercial apps I have run across.

STS-133 NASA Tweetup participants check out the Space Exploration Vehicle at Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: Shannon Moore (@ageekmom)

FREE Apps:

  • NASA App / NASA App HD for iPad – NASA’s official app; LOTS to see here on all of NASA’s missions and projects, not just human spaceflight. Includes streaming, live NASA TV
  • AstroApp: Space Shuttle Crew – Official NASA app celebrating the 30 year Space Shuttle program.
  • NASA’s Lunar Electric Rover (LER) Simulator – Drive a simulated rover on the surface of the moon? Yes, “there’s an app for that!” Thanks to a NASA Tweetup at Johnson Space Center, I got to see the LER (actually now called the SEV, Space Exploration Vehicle) up close and personal. Driving it in this sim is almost as much fun!
  • Planets – Great interactive globes of each planet as well as information on planetary viewing.
  • 3D Sun – jaw-dropping photos, videos & info about the Sun, with real-time alerts of sun activity!
  • Moon Globe – fully interactive virtual globe of Earth’s Moon
  • Galaxy Zoo – mobile version of GalaxyZoo.com, a crowdsourced project in which members of the public help classify millions of galaxies found in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
  • HubbleSite – official NASA app for the Hubble Space Telescope
  • Exoplanet - daily updated database of all discovered extrasolar planets (Last count: 490!)
  • Mars Globe - fully interactive virtual globe of the planet Mars
  • NASA Space Weather Media Viewer – space weather phenomena tracking and visualizations

As a space and science enthusiast, I admit I don’t need much justification to buy yet another app in this genre. That said, I am only recommending my favorite commercial apps in the following section.

 

Pay Apps
Listed prices are as of Dec. 30, 2010

  • MissionClock ($4.99)- comprehensive, real-time launch & mission timeline tracking of crewed missions (Space Shuttle & Soyuz) and unmanned flights (Progress ISS resupply; military, weather and communication satellites, etc.) Must have!
  • Buzz Aldrin ($1.99) / Buzz Aldrin HD for iPad ($3.99) – comprehensive news & information portal; streaming, live NASA TV
  • SpaceGeek($0.99) – NASA images of the day, news, tweets & videos; includes streaming, live NASA TV
  • Satellite Flybys ($2.99) – a simple, economical satellite flyby app for determining viewing opportunities of the ISS, Space Shuttle, satellites, X-37B when it was in orbit, etc.
  • GoSatWatch ($9.99) – an expensive, but comprehensive satellite flyby app. I held off on purchasing this one until I bought new binoculars and have started to get serious about viewing more than “just” ISS passes. Plus, it’s pretty awesome to have a “mini-Mission Control Center” real-time updating map on your phone!
  • Pocket Universe ($2.99) – full-featured astronomy app. Very well done, but if you can get only one, get StarWalk.
  • StarWalk ($2.99) / StarWalk for iPad ($4.99) – arguably the “gold standard” astronomy app and especially beautiful on the iPad.
  • VisiMoon ($2.99) – useful to amateur astronomers, as well as outdoors enthusiasts & photographers. Moonrise/set and phase information by date and location. A little pricey for what it does, though.
  • Mars Globe HD ($0.99) – fully interactive virtual globe of the planet Mars.
  • Space Wx ($1.99) – puts the latest space weather data & imagery at your fingertips; app created by the Utah State University Space Weather Center

If I have omitted a truly great free or commercial iOS app, please share it in the comments! I know there’s got to be some amazing ones I haven’t tried yet. For example, SkySafari($14.99) looks really tempting!

Also, if you have another device, don’t be shy — some of us won’t be on iPhones forever, after all. ;-)

Shannon (21 Posts)

Shannon D. Moore (@ageekmom) is a geeky mom of a 7-year-old, a lifelong space geek, a proud Space Tweep, and a Space Camp (1987) & NASATweetup / NASA Social alumnus since Nov. 2009 (STS-129). She's been communicating online since 1988. She also enjoys bicycling, outdoor recreation, and photography.


Comments

  1. Awesome list! Hope you don’t mind but we used this to help seed the mobile space geek app list on the new Spacevidcast Wiki – http://wiki.spacevidcast.com/index.php/Mobile_Applications

    • Nonsense, I don’t mind it at all – that’s why I sent you guys the link! “Making Space Commonplace” is a collaborative effort, y’know. ;-)

  2. Brixton Dynamics says:

    Great article. It’s been a while but there is an amazing space flight simulator coming out to iOS later this year with a full solar system and functional cockpits. Check it out at http://www.space-simulator.com! Enjoy.

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