Among the lists of must-have apps so frequently in tech news, there is one constant: weather apps. Everyone has one. Perhaps you’ve found that one perfect weather app and would never stray. Perhaps you’ve read this sentence in too many tech reviews to believe it, but it’s the truth: you’ve never seen a weather app like this before.
This is Sol, the world’s first interplanetary weather app, winner of the award for Best Use of Data at the 2013 International Space Apps Challenge.
Its makers were drawn to the ubiquity of weather apps when hatching ideas for the Wish You Were Here challenge at Space Apps Kansas City. Everybody has a weather app, they thought—why not use that to connect people to space?
According to teammate and president of Kansas City-based Ingenology, Mike Wilson, the team was drawn to the universality of the challenge. Teammate Jessica Meurers brought her love of science to the table and began to discuss her ideas with another designer. They discovered they had independently come up with similar ideas. In this organic way, the entire team dove into the challenge.
One of their goals was to address NASA’s Mars weather data, which is difficult for users to grab. So, they made a developer friendly, open source REST API, the Mars Atmospheric Aggregation System, the code for which is open and available for tinkering. This is based on the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station data provided by Centro de Astrobiología.
They knew design would be key: apps with beautiful graphics are hard to put down. Sharing is also important, so they integrated a sharing feature. Users are able to Tweet or share the weather from Gale Crater on Mars or from anywhere on Earth.
You can download the result for yourself now in the App Store, for iPhone or iPad, and commenters are already asking for more planets. The Android app will be published in June.