Current Event May 6, 2020
An American astronaut is returning home to a very different Earth than the one she left seven months ago. Jessica Meir was living on the International Space Station, an orbiting science lab, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In preparing to head home, she considered the many changes she expected to find when she arrived, including restricted access to family and friends. Listen to hear Meir describe daily life on the space station and what she was most excited about doing when returning to Earth.
Update: Since this story aired, Jessica Meir returned safely to Earth and immediately entered a weeklong quarantine at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Current Event March 24, 2020
The U.S. space program has big plans for 2020. Two private companies are preparing to send astronauts into space, which has not been done since 2011. A rover mission to Mars is planned, this time with a special instrument to pull oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. And hundreds of small satellites will be launched into orbit, providing global internet coverage. Listen to learn more about the space program’s ambitious goals and the challenges it faces.
Current Event August 30, 2019
It’s been 50 years since man first walked on the moon. Now, decades later, NASA is working on sending a manned spacecraft back to the moon. This time, however, the trip to the moon is part of a larger plan: getting man to Mars. However, NASA will need bipartisan political support to make their goals a reality, and some have dismissed this mission as unnecessary. Listen to learn how and why NASA plans to send astronauts to the moon and beyond and then debate: Should we send astronauts to the moon again?
Current Event August 5, 2019
It has been 50 years since the first moon landing. Astronaut Michael Collins orbited the moon while his more well-known colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on its surface. As someone who was just 15 miles away from this world-famous event, Collins offers a unique perspective on the moon landing. Listen to learn about his experience and hear why he believes humans should continue traveling into space today.
Current Event July 24, 2019
Far from the bright lights of cities and suburbs, amateur astronomers gather to stargaze in the dark at events known as “star parties.” Stargazers enjoy sharing the experience with others who are passionate about dark skies and the faraway places they make visible. Listen to hear about what happens at star parties and what amateur astronomers are viewing in the dark night sky.
Current Event July 3, 2019
A group of college students recently came together to attempt an extremely challenging task: launching a rocket into space. Large companies and universities invest a lot of time, money, and resources to launch a rocket, but these ambitious students were determined to do their best with much less. Listen to find out how the idea was hatched, what happened at their first launch, and what they hope other students might learn from them.
Current Event May 21, 2019
The job of an astronaut on the International Space Station is demanding, and those interested in the job must have many skills and qualifications. Astronauts must be prepared for spacewalks, science experiments, station maintenance, and many other tasks. Like any job, being an astronaut has its own special quirks and challenges. Listen to hear from some astronauts on the International Space Station about their experiences orbiting the earth for science.
Current Event March 13, 2019
An astronomy writer has written a new book about “hazards to life in our universe,” in which he describes exploding stars, nuclear meltdowns, viral epidemics, natural disasters, and other phenomena with potentially cataclysmic impact on earth. Listen to this interview with the book’s author to hear what he learned from his research about past, present, and future threats to life on earth.
Current Event January 16, 2019
On New Year’s Day, a NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) spacecraft made history by encountering the most distant object ever visited, over 4 billion miles away. The piano-sized spacecraft has already transmitted images of an icy rock known as Ultima Thule, which scientists believe to be a pristine vestige of the early days of our solar system. Listen to this interview with a planetary scientist to learn why this event is so exciting and how the mission may further our understanding of our solar system’s origins.
Current Event December 12, 2018
A new NASA probe called InSight recently landed on Mars after traveling 300 million miles from Earth. The success of this mission was a very exciting accomplishment, as it involved a complex process of slowing down the probe very quickly in order to make a smooth landing. Listen to this story to learn about this important engineering achievement and what NASA hopes the probe will do now that it has safely landed on Mars.
Current Event November 1, 2018
NASA recently sent a probe into space aiming to get closer to the sun than ever before. The spacecraft is the first ever NASA has named after a living person. The Parker Solar Probe is named after solar science rock star Eugene Parker, who is a legend in the field. Listen to hear about Parker’s breakthrough discoveries that earned him fame, as well as what mystery he and other scientists are hoping the new probe will help them solve.
Current Event April 5, 2018
NASA scientists now know more about how space travel affects the human body. They were able to study the genes of identical twins. One who went into space for a year and one who stayed on Earth. Since they share the same DNA profile, scientists had a chance to study changes to their bodies as well as changes to their DNA. The study showed that genes do change in space and remain changed even months after returning to Earth. Listen to learn more about how space travel can change human DNA.
Current Event February 22, 2018
Traveling in space for months at a time may be possible soon. Packing all of the food and water needed would take a lot of space and fuel. American crews on the International Space Station already recycle their own sweat and urine, and now scientists are finding ways to recycle other waste products including feces. Bacteria helps to break down human waste and at the end of the process make it into food that can supplement an astronaut’s diet. Listen to hear more about the next steps in making recycling poop in space a reality.
Current Event December 20, 2016
The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, also had a political career as a U.S. senator. After his historic space flight, he served in Congress for 24 years. At the end of his political career, at the age of 77, he went back into space and became the oldest person to fly in space on the shuttle Discovery. Listen to hear more about the extraordinary life of John Glenn.
Current Event December 7, 2016
Dark matter is invisible and barely interacts with anything else. Finding dark matter and proving it exists is a difficult task. There are a few theories about what dark matter is but no one has found a way to detect it. It could be that the universe is mostly invisible. Listen to hear more about dark matter and what it can tell us.
Current Event November 2, 2016
Astronomers have noticed blobs of eerie light glowing in outer space and have been puzzled by them since their discovery. Astronomers were studying galaxies in the distant universe, when they noticed strange glowing clouds of gas that were 10 times the diameter of the Milky Way. They have been looking into the source of light coming from the blobs and have recently made an interesting discovery that reveals why the blobs produce a glow.
Current Event August 31, 2016
Scientists have discovered evidence of gravitational waves, which show ripples in space and time. A new machine has made it possible for scientists to observe space in a whole new way. Recently, the machine picked up vibrations from the collision of two black holes. The discovery comes a few months after the very first detection of gravitational waves. With these tools, scientists can look at the universe in a new way. In this story you will hear the signal from the black holes converted from gravitational waves to soundwave.
Current Event August 17, 2016
NASA is preparing to launch a spacecraft that will measure and report space weather and provide live images of Earth. The idea to provide Earth’s images for the public to view started with former Vice President, Al Gore, in 1992. He believed everyone should be able to view and study the earth. The satellite’s ability to measure space weather will help prevent against damaging effects on earth from things like solar storms that can damage electric power grids. After more than a decade, Gore’s vision is becoming a reality. Listen to hear more about this new satellite.
Current Event May 26, 2016
Scientists recently made an exciting discovery. They spotted three, earth-sized planets beyond our solar system. Though scientists have found many planets in the past, these particular ones are special because they may potentially support life. They each orbit a reddish “dwarf star” that is smaller than our sun and much cooler. Scientists used to ignore these dwarf stars, but now we know that such stars can produce planets worth studying. Scientists will continue to analyze these planets to find out more about their atmospheres and properties. Listen to hear more about these three newly-discovered worlds.