Space Orbiter ATGAtlantis lifts off from the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center on April 8, 2002.

Apple’s iconic iPhone smartphone has been deemed “more important than space travel”, a woman used it to shoot an astounding clip of the final Space Shuttle Endeavour launch and was even itself launched into space by Brooklyn enthusiasts. In addition to dozens of astronomy apps on the App Store, iPhone also lets you explore breathtaking space imagery with the free and official app from NASA. And now, the device will be part of the Space Shuttle Atlantis’ payload which is due for lift-off from Kennedy Space Center tomorrow at 11:26am Eastern.

The 135th and final mission of the Space Shuttle fleet will include two modified iPhone 4s that will be used for experiments on the International Space Station. The device is said to be hardened for use in space, all wireless communication will be disabled and its internal battery will be replaced with an external battery pack which is certified for use in space. Interestingly, it won’t be jailbroken. But why will NASA blast Apple’s phone into space?

The report notes that NASA had to customize the handset for the zero-gravity space environment because they didn’t have enough time to certify the whole device for space exploration. There is no such thing as an official NASA smartphone for use in space, but a customized iPhone should do the trick. Research, space exploration, scientific tests? There’s bound to be an app for that. The publication notes that “an off-the-shelf device with a huge base of software developers, in the future an iPhone could even become standard issue for ISS astronauts, with different apps being used for operating experiments, collecting images, and possibly even communicating” (FaceTime in space?). By the way, you can follow the final Space Shuttle mission tomorrow on your iPhone using several cool apps.

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