April 24, 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 (19 Posts)

Shannon D. Moore (@ageekmom) is a geeky mom of a nearly 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.


  • http://www.spacevidcast.com Benjamin Higginbotham

    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

    • http://www.wildtexas.com Shannon

      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. ;-)

  • Brixton Dynamics

    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.