The Atlantis orbiter recently completed its final mission, bringing the space shuttle programme to a close after 30 years. On board the shuttle were two space-certified iPhone 4s, running the experimental SpaceLab app. Also available to us Earth-based gadget freaks, via the medium of iTunes, the app enabled the astronauts to pinpoint their location using the camera and in-app coastline database, while also collecting various other pieces of data. While a nifty novelty, many of the functions of the app don't work here on Earth as they were designed for use in orbit. For something a little more fun, check out this addictive space shuttle flight simulator.
F-SIM Space Shuttle (iPhone/iPad)
- iOS 3 or later
F-SIM Space Shuttle gives you the chance to take command of Atlantis and pilot it safely to the runway at John F. Kennedy Space Center or Edwards Air Force Base. Once landed, you can even watch a replay of your flight from various perspectives such as the runway and the control tower, as well as from the orbiter itself.
Flying the shuttle from a 3D virtual cockpit, you can choose to use accelerometer controls, using tilt control and or make use of the touchscreen and opt for the analogue stick control. Either works well, although the tilt control possibly gives you a better idea of the real thing.
Each new flight starts with a satellite view and the app gives you the choice between the two landing sites and two different runways at each, along with weather readings, which you can either randomize or set manually. You can also choose to manually control the shuttle's rudder, speedbrake, landing gear and chute or simply sit back and let the autopilot do the difficult stuff.
If you're not used to flight simulators, it's quite tricky to get the hang of, but that just makes it all the more addictive. The excellent graphics really add to the realism (well, it's as realistic as landing a space shuttle using your mobile phone can be) and if you get really good at it then you'll be awarded a "perfect landing" score and tested further with additional turbulence and simulated system failures.