I love NASA – plain and simple. There’s no getting around it. While my colleagues at work spend their lunch break surfing the daily news, I have my nose buried in the latest NASA mission, looking at images from the latest NASA Mars rovers update, or watching the NASA TV live feed. What I love the most about NASA is not only that it’s one of the most high-tech organizations that’s constantly pushing the edges of science and space exploration, but they also expend tremendous effort and resources to promote space and technology education.
One of the things that NASA does very well is utilizing the latest Internet technologies to provide space and aeronautical enthusiasts with a number of extremely useful and functional online applications. Some of these apps are simple games or slide shows, but other NASA tools provide you with the ability to glimpse directly into some of the information and data feeds gathered by specific NASA missions – such as the Mars rovers and the International Space Station. In this post, I’d like to provide an overview of what I consider to be 10 of NASA’s coolest online applications.
10 Amazing NASA Apps and Interactive Features
Browsing through the NASA website, you could easily get lost in the huge volume of content, images, videos and other features. There’s so much to see and read that it’s too easy to lose yourself for hours in the amazing Sci-Fi world of NASA. One of the NASA apps that I visit more often than any other is NASA’s International Space Station tracking system. The idea that there are human crew members floating in orbit inside this technological wonder is fascinating. This is why I find the ISS tracker so fascinating – it’s cool to see what part of the earth that they’re over, whether they’re in daylight or night, and when any “sighting opportunities” arise.
And speaking of the International Space Station, why not go one step beyond seeing where they are located, and instead check out the Earth from the perspective of the ISS crew members?
NASA devotes an entire section of their website to an amazing and constantly updated photo gallery of views of the earth from the ISS. The example above comes from a recent update NASA provided of the station’s view of Haiti in the aftermath of the destruction there.
While NASA can be educational and information, it also knows how to have a little fun. The next two applications offer kids (or adults!) the opportunity to explore a few interesting concepts about what future plans NASA has for human space exploration. For example, the Lunar Outpost flash application lets you explore NASA’s proposed solution for a human populated Lunar Outpost. Hover your mouse over an object and see a larger image. Click on the object and get a detailed description of the proposed vehicle or building and what it’s purpose would be as part of the Lunar Outpost.
The Space Agency also created a wonderfully informative (and graphically intensive) application called NASA @ Home and City. This application lets you virtually explore a household or major industries like air travel, automotive and even sports, and it shows you in a fun and interactive way how NASA technologies are integrated throughout your world.
NASA Home and City reveals that NASA has had a far greater impact on technology and society than the agency gets credit for. Even though the application is educational, the amazing graphics and fluid interaction really makes it a fun virtual world to explore.
Next up is one of my favorite NASA innovations – the EXN3D. What is this, you ask? Well it isn’t the name of an Android on Star Wars (although I’m sure the engineers who thought up the concept are probably Star Wars fans). The EXN3D is the name of “3D Binoculars” that you can use to view unique NASA imagery from a 3D perspective.
Not long after I wrote an article at MakeUseOf on Google Mars, I was contacted by some folks affiliated with the Pathfinder Innovation Challenge about helping to promote their efforts. I’d like to finally take this opportunity to introduce the Challenge to MUO readers. It is a collaborative effort between NASA, JPL-Caltech and Microsoft to provide students with the ability to create real-world innovative technologies based on Mars Exploration.
There are five “leagues” where participants produce innovative creations and technologies in order to compete for prizes like a school visit from a Mars mission team member, or a trip to the MSL launch, just to name a couple. Just a note, Microsoft clearly created the Pathfinder website, because it doesn’t work in Firefox. So, if you visit the site, you have to use IE. The contest is already underway, but watch for the announcement of the winners and what sort of innovative ideas they came up with.
Next up is an example of the sort of amazing high-resolution imagery that you’ve come to expect from NASA. The most impressive gallery I’ve found on the site are some of the images from WISE - the wide-field infrared survey explorer scanning the entire sky using infrared.
As you can see above, some of the imagery from this device is just breathtaking. The mission of WISE is to pick up objects in the sky and in space that is otherwise invisible to simple telescopes or cameras. In infrared light, objects floating in the darkness glow – allowing this device to identify near-Earth asteroids and comets.
Another amazing application on the NASA website is International Space Station Photosynths. In this application, you can take a virtual tour through the International space station by clicking on the panoramic-style views created from photographs in and around the space station.
Explore the U.S. Laboratory, the European Laboratory, the Japanese Laboratory and more! You’ll need to install Microsoft Silverlight for the app to work. You just click to install on the pop-up box, and within a few seconds you’ll be surfing through the ISS.
If your thing is Aeronautics, then you may want to have some fun during your lunch break by playing NASA’s Aeronautics Memory Game.
The game goes through images of all kinds of aircraft technologies – some of them fairly impressive designs – and attempt to create matches. You don’t really need to know a whole lot about aeronautics to play the game, but if you’re an enthusiast, you’ll love the game simply for the images.
Last but not least, for iPhone users who love everything to do with NASA, the space agency offers its fans a very cool iPhone or iPod Touch NASA app which delivers all of the latest fascinating news and content from NASA directly to your mobile device.
This very cool iPhone app is like having your pulse on all of the greatest Space news and technological achievements right on your mobile phone. Never again will you miss a launch date or miss out on the latest images coming from Mars. All of it will be delivered directly to you – free of charge.
Are you a NASA enthusiast? Do you have any of your own favorite applications or specific pages that you enjoy from the space agency’s website? Share your feedback in the comments section below!
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