Who doesn’t like free? And who doesn’t like great iPad apps? When the two come together it’s good stuff. With that in mind, we’d like to share our Best Free iPad App of the Week here every weekend.
This week’s pick is Ascent: Commemorating Shuttle by NASA. I should start off by mentioning that I have chosen two other NASA apps among the Best Free iPad App of the Week picks over the last six months or so – so it was absolutely not my intention to be choosing another one this year, or anytime soon. But Ascent is such a spectacular app that there just couldn’t be any other pick this week.
This app, designed for the iPad, offers the highest quality Space Shuttle launch imagery ever seen. Here’s a bit of background on the app, from its App Store page and the NASA site intro for it:
Ascent is a compilation of film and video representing the best of the best ground based Shuttle motion imagery from the STS-114, STS-117, and STS-124 missions.
Photographic documentation of a space shuttle launch played a critical role in the engineering analysis and evaluation process that took place during each and every mission. Motion and still images enabled shuttle engineers to visually identify off-nominal events and conditions requiring corrective action to insure mission safety and success. This imagery, however, also provides a highly inspirational and educational insight to those outside of the NASA family.
Rendered in the highest definition possible, this production is a tribute to the dozens of men and women of the shuttle imaging team and the 30 years of achievement of the Space Shuttle Program.
The app includes the full 45 minute movie, extra scenes that didn’t make the final cut, a small set of still images, and an About page with lots of good background on the entire project.
Unscripted and superb commentary for the movie and the extra scenes is provided by the producer, Matt Melis and Kevin Burke. Melis is an aerospace engineer who has worked on the shuttle program for a good number of years, and Burke managed aspects of the acquisition and deployment of engineering launch imagery.
You can hear their fascination with and passion for the subject all through the movie – noting the great shots and the fantastic detail in the clips. And the two are not afraid to let there be some silences while they just admire the footage like viewers and let it speak for itself. They even mention how much they love all the footage and how it was tough to edit any of it out for the sake of this movie.
Each shuttle launch is documented by over 125 cameras. Both talk about how these are engineering cameras are positioned all around the launch area (and some are long distances away), looking at different engineering aspects of the launch process. Some of the impressive camera equipment is shown off in the still image gallery.
The opening minutes of the movie offer some lovely soft-focus footage, along with some fun facts on shuttle launches.
After the opening the next sequence shows the six seconds prior to launch as the Shuttle’s main engines are turning on, in incredibly slow motion. I believe they said the film is slowed down to one sixteenth of its original frame rate in order to provide an awesome view of the launch process in real time.
The movie takes you on a grand tour that shows off numerous cameras and angles of the launch footage – with always-excellent commentary detailing exactly what is being shown and providing a lot of explanation on how it’s filmed, and why this is all critical information for the shuttle program to capture.
Towards the end of the move there is some incredible HD footage – the level of detail you can see on this is just amazing.
AirPlay support is built into the app but I can’t currently get it to work – while other apps work fine from my iPad 2. I hope and expect this will soon be corrected in an app update and I’m looking forward to seeing the app’s awesome footage up on the even bigger TV screen.
The app is a fairly large download (645MB) but all the video footage is contained within the app so it can be viewed offline.
If you have even the slightest interest in the Space Shuttle and space travel, or have kids who have interest, then you’re going to want to grab this awesome app. NASA just keep turning these out, and I honestly think this may be their best one yet.
If you’re after more great free iPad apps, be sure to check out our previous choices for Best Free iPad of the Week.