There are many good NASA-sponsored or NASA-related apps for the iPad, NASA Television, NASA Visualization Explorer 1.5 and 3D Sun to name a few, but none compares in breadth of content with NASA App HD.This app, compiled by NASA’s Ames Research Center, combines insightful articles and news stories, dazzling images and videos, live TV feeds, and more as a one-stop portal for most everything NASA. It’s similar to NASA App (for iPhone), but with additional content and more screen area to display it on. Everyone from children and young students to hardcore space geeks will find fascinating things in this app, and it’s an easy pick for an Editors’ Choice educational iPad app.
A Tour of the Solar System
While NASA App (for iPhone) arranges its section icons in a grid that fills most of an iPhone’s home page screen, the iPad’s much larger screen size afforded NASA the luxury of App HD (for iPad) has the luxury of placing the home-page icons on the top and bottom of the screen, leaving most of the screen open to show a representation of the solar system, a section particularly good for students. Tapping the Sun, Moon, or any of the planets brings up images of the object, data about its physical characteristics, as well as historical and descriptive information, a timeline of important events related to our understanding of the orb and an overview of NASA missions. Pluto is included, along with a discussion of what constitutes a planet; dwarf planets; and the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. There is also a section on Asteroids, Comets, and Meteors, and one on the Universe, largely in the context of how NASA has helped increase our understanding of these.
Cool Space Pics
Along the bottom of the screen are seven thumbnails, labeled Images, News, NASA TV, Videos, Tweets, Featured, and Radio, respectively. Tapping Images takes you to a frequently updated collection of more than 10,000 beautiful, captioned images, representing a wide range of space-related activities, most with some connection to NASA. You can search on different subjects; rather than a list, the results are a bank of images related to the subject that you can swipe through. You can also access images from a given date by tapping on a calendar icon. You can share them on Twitter or Facebook, email them, save them to your camera roll, or print them.
What’s New in the Cosmos?
News takes you to a repository of informative news stories and feature articles, accessible to a general audience. They range from late-breaking items to stories going back two years. It’s arranged in 10 sections: News and Features; Shuttle and Station; Solar System; Universe; Aeronautics; Earth; Technology: NASA in your Life; NASA History & People; and Breaking News. New items are frequently added. You can post links to stories to Twitter or Facebook, email stories, or print them from within the app. One drawback is that unlike NASA App (for iPhone), there’s no feature for searching for news items on a specific subject.If you get NASA App HD, there’s no need to get the separate NASA TV app, as it’s incorporated into this app. NASA TV lets you tune in to live and recorded content from NASA’s TV station, and provides a program schedule. The Videos section hosts a frequently updated collection containing a wide range of informative and fun videos: Mars Curiosity and International Space Station (ISS) updates, NASA TV stories, and much more. You can search for videos by topic, share them on Twitter or Facebook, or email them.The Tweets section accesses tweets from a variety of NASA feeds. You can retweet them after a fashion, post them to Facebook, email them, or more. The catch with retweeting is that it doesn’t automatically fill in the name of the NASA feed, so to retweet or respond, you have to type in the NASA Twitter handle yourself. (You can also access your Twitter account and send tweets unrelated to NASA, but it’s awkward as a Twitter client.)
Year of the Solar System
The Featured tab sends you to featured content, a series of very informative, accessible, and well written multimedia articles under the umbrella heading Year of the Solar System. (A filing cabinet icon so far contains only Year of the Solar System, but seemingly anticipates that there will be other future themes.) Stories can be tweeted, posted to Facebook, emailed, or printed. From the main theme page, a camera icon takes you to related images, and a film icon to videos.
Rock On with NASA
The Radio icon takes you to Third Rock Radio, a NASA station where the Rock is rock music, streamed over the Internet. It’s a nice selection of music, though a bit ad-laden.Across the top of the home page are six more icons. Launch Services covers NASA’s launch services program, the space agency’s management of missions (its own, as well as ones with commercial payloads) and expendable launch vehicles (from the Atlas and Delta rockets built by the United Launch Alliance to SpaceX’s Falcon and Orbital Sciences’ Taurus and Pegasus rockets. It discusses past and future missions, and has sections on launch sites, which in addition to Cape Canaveral include Wallops Island in Virginia, the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the Ronald Reagan ballistic missile defense site in the Marshall Islands, and the Kodiak launch complex in Alaska. Sighting Opportunities gives information on viewing the brightest NASA satellites/spacecraft from your location.
NASA Centers displays a map of the U.S., with each NASA center marked by a red pin, and your location marked in blue. Tapping a pin brings up information on visiting that center, including hours of operation, ticket info, and links to other useful information.
Launch Schedule gives information about upcoming launches by NASA (and SpaceX; the first mission mentioned is that company’s Falcon9 ongoing resupply flight to the ISS) and its ISS partners, giving info that may include the launch date; name of mission; launch vehicle, site, and pad; launch window; and description of the mission.
Missions calls up a list of current and future NASA missions in alphabetical order; tapping one takes you to a page with information about it. They include well-known missions such as the Cassini Saturn mission and more obscure ones like Jason-1, an oceanography satellite that monitors global ocean circulation and helps improve global climate predictions.
The Settings (gear) icon lets you show or disable external links, show or hide alerts, and prevent or enable sleep.
As NASA’s flagship app, NASA App HD (for iPad) contains a wealth of frequently updated multimedia content about the space agency’s activities, missions, and discoveries. It has a huge archive of cool images and videos, informative news stories and features, as well as live feeds from NASA TV, and information about how to visit NASA’s centers. Anyone with an interest in space will want to download this free app. There are many NASA iPad apps, but none has anything near the range of content of of Editors’ Choice NASA App HD.