23 May 2017

At the end of March 2017, NASA published a new website for searching their entire, consolidated image archive. Along with this, they also published a new public API that allows access to the search engine.

Being a native app developer, I naturally started experimenting with writing an app to search this API. It also helped that the web app was pretty crummy.

Couple of weeks later, and I launched Endeavour as a free download on iOS.


I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, although there are still some tweaks to make and things to add. I went free-with-ads as opposed to paid-download because I’m competing directly against another app from NASA themselves, and that’s a hard sell. Interestingly, though, it doesn’t seem as if the NASA app has been updated to use the new API, and it actually returns far fewer images for the same search terms.

I also think my app offers a better experience, as the NASA app will just leave you at a black screen with no progress indicator while it downloads a full size image. I took a different approach to this: I take the existing thumbnail you’ve already downloaded, and display that while the full size image is downloading. Then, when the full size image has been fetched, I transparently replace the thumbnail version with the full size one - the only thing the user notices is that the image quality suddenly increases.

There’s a huge wealth of incredible photography available to view - from the very earliest unmanned probes and early manned missions, to the very latest photos from Pluto and Saturn, as well as tons of launch photos from the shuttle era.

To date, downloads have been disappointing. I’m not sure of the reason for this - I’ve promoted it in a few obvious places, and it’s free to download so I would have expected a higher number of downloads.

Please download it and enjoy exploring our solar system and beyond!