NASA’s first mobile application and software that models the behavior of earthquake faults to improve earthquake forecasting and our understanding of earthquake processes are co-winners of NASA’s 2012 Software of the Year Award. The award recognizes innovative software technologies that significantly improve the agency’s exploration of space and maximize scientific discovery on Earth. A NASA software advisory panel reviews Software of the Year entries and recommends winners to NASA’s Inventions and Contributions Board for confirmation.


NASA App for iPad provides information on current missions.

Software engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA developed the NASA App for mobile platforms including the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Android phones and tablets. The NASA App currently has more than 9.6 million user installations and receives more than three million hits per day on average. The app’s creators are program manager Jerry Colen, software engineer John Freitas, and new media specialist Charles Du.

The application uses a collection of backend scripts and servers to gather and aggregate all of the best and most heavily requested NASA content from thousands of non-mobile Web pages, image databases, video collections, news and image feeds, Twitter accounts, etc. As the content is gathered and aggregated, it is also being optimized, formatted, and then delivered to a very fast, engaging, well organized, and intuitive application. The NASA App also makes extensive use of the mobile devices’ built-in hardware, features, and usability to offer very compelling yet concise information in a clear and easy-to-use way that aids public access to science, technology, and engineering discoveries. With the integrated social media features (such as Facebook and Twitter), the app makes sharing the content fun and easy.

The NASA App supports all the agency’s programs, projects, and missions by bringing the wealth of NASA’s online information to users’ fingertips. The prime contribution and focus of the NASA App is on public outreach and education. It is a whole new way for NASA to share the mission milestones, results, and research with a new generation using smartphones and tablets. It also gives the public access to all of NASA’s breaking news/video, whenever and wherever they want. The NASA App helps users gain a better understanding and appreciation of NASA science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) discoveries.

After selecting a mission, a second window opens a detailed view of the mission description, allowing users to view images and videos, visit the mission Web site, view a launch or arrival countdown clock, and view an orbit tracking screen.

The NASA App was #1 in the education section of the Apple app store for several months after being released on each platform. On the iPad version of the NASA App (and other tablets in the future), every major solar system object is covered with a detailed write-up including distance from the Sun, radius, mass, density, gravity, moons, rings, etc. In all versions of the NASA App, NASA missions are explained, with links to news, images, videos, tweets, tracking, countdown, etc. Live streaming of launches (like the last Shuttle launch), major events (discovery of new life), and mission progress (ISS) can be viewed wherever the student has a Wi-Fi or cellular network connection.

Other features include on-demand NASA videos from around the agency, live streaming of NASA TV, Third Rock Internet streaming radio, ISS and Earth orbiting satellite trackers, and links to all NASA visitor centers.

The NASA App was the very first mobile app developed, approved, and released by NASA. The significant development, innovations, legal reviews, and methods created for this to happen paved the way for a variety of new apps from other NASA centers to be released.

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