Android Candy: Outer Space, in Your Pocket

When the Space Shuttle program shut down, I have to admit, it deflated my excitement about space exploration just a bit. Although it's not fair to pin the future of manned missions to space on a fleet of aging crafts built in the 1980s, the Space Shuttle represented the latest step in a process that would get us to other planets. Because there wasn't anything immediately replacing the Shuttle, it felt like we were giving up on space. (Some might argue we gave up on space after landing on the moon, but that's an entirely different discussion.)

Then the Mars Curiosity rover arrived at Mars, and I remembered how much I love science! My daughter stayed up late with me, and we passed a jar of peanuts back and forth while we chewed our nails watching NASA TV. The seven minutes of hell ended, and after a painfully long wait, we heard from Curiosity! My excitement was palpable, and that moment sparked a new generation of space geek in my daughter. The first thing she did was look on her phone for NASA information, and I'm glad she did.

If you haven't looked at the NASA Android app in a while, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The last time I tried a NASA app, it was a simple streaming app that did a poor job of streaming the NASA TV video. It crashed. It was ugly. It did not inspire awe or excitement. The current NASA app is amazing! Not only does it have high-definition streaming video (which doesn't seem to crash), it also has information on current and upcoming missions, a launch calendar, categorized information on moons and planets, and tons of other space-nerd fodder. It even will change the background photo on your Android device to the Astronomy Pic of the Day.

I think my favorite feature of the NASA app is its ability to grab your GPS location and tell you exactly where and when to spot things like the International Space Station! If you're a space nerd like I am, I urge you to grab your jar of peanuts and let the NASA app touchdown on your Android device. It's so much better than the last time I tried it, several years ago, that the NASA app for Android is this month's Editors' Choice.


Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.


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