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5 apps for the armchair astronaut & the final Space Shuttle launch

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you know that today's launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, mission STS-135, signals the end of the shuttle program as we know it and the closing of a chapter in American human spaceflight.

Weather and ten trillion other mechanical considerations permitting, the launch is at 11:26 a.m. ET and you can watch a live stream of the events right on NASA's website. You can also watch the launch on the NASA apps (listed below). Given the historic nature of the launch, you'll probably be able to find it on television as well.

If you won't be near a TV or internet connection, don't worry. We've got your back. Here are five apps to keep you in the loop through the final countdown and beyond.

NASA App for iPhone and iPad - These apps are really robust and pack a lot of cool stuff into one neat package. Stream NASA TV right to your phone or iPad, watch videos of everything from spacewalks to astronaut training exercises, and browse thousands of images taken in space. It even has Facebook and Twitter integration so you can blast all your friends with rapid-fire status updates during the excitement of the launch. They'll just love you for it. Really.

GoAtlantis - This app was designed specifically for the STS-135 mission and helps you track Atlantis' post-launch movement in real-time. Watch the tiny orbiter on your screen zip around earth in low-earth orbit as it catches up and eventually docks with the International Space Station (ISS) two days later. The coolest feature in this app is its ability to predict when the ISS will pass over your location to you can catch a glimpse as it goes by. Yes, you really can see it winking and blinking in the sky if you know just where to look, and GoAtlantis will tell you.

AstroApp: Space Shuttle Crew - As the mission clock ticks down, use the time to learn the history of the Space Shuttle program, its missions, and the astronauts that flew them. Commissioned by NASA, AstroApp contains full biographies of each crew member and are searchable via mission or alphabetically. For the imaginative at heart, app developers threw in a nice little tool that allows you to superimpose your face onto a flight suit so you see what you'd look like if you were ready for liftoff.

Mission Clock
- Speaking of mission clocks, if you're a diehard space junkie with $5 burning a hole in your pocket, this app is worth every penny. It provides up-to-the-minute information on all NASA launches as well as those at other space agencies around the world and also provides alerts with breaking news from mission control. The neatest thing about this app is that it doesn't just count down the time until launch, it tells you what the crew is doing every step of the way.

SpaceGeek - Like the NASA App mentioned above, SpaceGeek offers live streaming of NASA TV, but it brings more to the table. The app has videos, pictures, mission updates, a breaking news feed, Twitter updates, and more. For such a full-featured app, it's hard to believe its only a buck, but it's worth it.



Have a favorite shuttle hugger app of your own? Share it with us in the comments.