Buzz Aldrin Portal to Science and Space Exploration for iPhone full review
Everybody’s favourite astronaut has an eponymous iPhone app. Buzz Aldrin Portal to Science and Space Exploration, brought to you by The App Company, is geared toward both young minds and seasoned experts. Despite what my detractors may say, I am not a juvenile, and it goes without saying that I am not a space-industry expert, so I can’t evaluate the app from either of those perspectives. I’m more of an approaching-middle-age mind who’s interested in learning about space exploration.
From that perch, I set out on my journey to learn more about humanity’s efforts in space through the eyes and mind of Buzz Aldrin.
The app is full of information: the amount of it is almost overwhelming, but it’s organized in a way that helps you make sense of things, even if moving through the app requires quite a bit of tapping back and forth from screen to screen.
Upon launching the app, you’re greeted with a photomontage of Buzz then (in astronaut gear while on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission) and now (peering at you from the great beyond), with Earth in the foreground and the Moon in the background. The app takes a little while to load—in my experience, an average of seven seconds.
Once loaded, Portal to Science and Space Exploration puts you on the SpaceBuzz screen. There are five main screens to choose from: SpaceBuzz, News, Interactive, Buzz Life, and More. Switching between the main screens is easy, and the response is fast. And if you go from, say, the photo gallery in the International Space Station (ISS) mission section of SpaceBuzz to the background information about the Gemini 12 mission in the Buzz Life main screen and then back to the SpaceBuzz main screen, the app remembers the area of SpaceBuzz you were in before you tapped away. Delightful.
Space Buzz is where most of the action is. It features 10 categories, including Buzz’s New & Most Popular, Mars Exploration, Space Tourism & Private Venture, and Mysteries & Myths. Most of these categories are further split into sections, the most common being Buzz’s Takes (where you can find links to letters and articles Buzz has written about a specific topic) and Roundtable (where you can find info from various experts or a panel of experts discussing certain topics, such as whether the ISS should be deorbited in the year 2016). Both Buzz’s Takes and Roundtable are context-specific in these areas—you get Buzz’s takes on just the ISS in the ISS mission area, for example. Sometimes, there will also be links to video, photos, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds as they relate to the particular area of the app you’re in.
The links to specific Twitter feeds, such as the ISS’s @Astro_TJ (aka TJ Creamer in the real universe), worked great. However, generally throughout the app, links to Twitter feeds of mentions about a specific topic, such as the ISS or Cassini-Huygens, weren’t coming through. (Names and images of Twitter account holders tweeting about a topic came through, but not the actual content of the tweets.)
Each category from the SpaceBuzz section runs deep, so be sure to tap around to get acquainted.