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March 22, 2005

NASA Brings Space and Science To Your iPod

A new "podcast" puts audio recordings of NASA science news articles into your pocket MP3 player

[email protected] -- It's hip. It's trendy. It's ... NASA?

Actually, it's NASA on your iPod.

Using an iPod or any portable MP3 player, you can now explore the Universe while driving, jogging, waiting in line ... just about anywhere. It's easy: tune in to the [email protected] podcast.

Podcasting is a new technology that lets you search for audio broadcasts on the Internet -- so-called "podcasts" -- and download them onto portable MP3 players. You can take a podcast with you and listen to it whenever and wherever the mood strikes.

[email protected] has been providing audio recordings of science news stories for years. Last December, the site began podcasting those stories. By February, [email protected] was the #1 most popular podcast among users of the Podcasting News website.

"We're pleasantly surprised to get a number one ranking so quickly. The [email protected] podcast has existed for such a short time. Rising to number one after only about two months is pretty amazing," says Ron Koczor, manager of [email protected] at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

"I think it shows that lots of people out there are interested in NASA science," Koczor says. Between its December launch and the end of February, listeners accessed the [email protected] podcast more than 360,000 times.

Bryan Walls, curator of the [email protected] web site and the architect of its podcasting service, explains how to access a podcast: "Connect your MP3 player to your computer, then connect your computer to the Internet. Podcasting software lets you 'subscribe' to a particular podcast like [email protected] Whenever that podcast is updated with a new installment, the software downloads the update and sticks it on your MP3 player."

The most popular podcasting software is a free program called iPodder, but other programs for podcasting are available as well. With these programs, users can find podcasts, create lists of their favorites, and automatically download new material to their MP3 player. ("And for those without an MP3 player," notes Walls, "podcasts play fine from the computer, too.")

"To get the [email protected] podcast, point your podcasting software to http://science.nasa.gov/podcast.xml," says Walls.

"People are free to put [email protected] stories on their own websites or other publications, as long as they give us proper credit," adds Koczor. Likewise, people are free to use the [email protected] podcast, sharing it with friends, or perhaps including audio excerpts from an article in their own, personal podcast.

Currently the podcast is available only in English, though Koczor says they're planning a Spanish version in the near future.

"We're always looking for new ways to make [email protected] available to people," says Walls. "You can get our stories on your MP3 player, your Palm or Pocket PC, and even on some cell phones." Click here to view a complete list of formats.

"Thanks to these cutting-edge technologies," says Koczor, "more people than ever before are tuning into the fascinating world of NASA science."