nasa

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut's nightmare.

"Suddenly," she said, "I couldn't breathe."

Just as class lets out for the summer across the country, a new one has just been announced.

NASA has chosen 12 people from a pool of more than 18,300 applicants for two years of training before giving them the title of "astronaut."

The space agency received a record number of applicants after announcing an open application in December 2015.

Jasmin Moghbeli, one of the dozen candidates, spoke with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro from Houston's Johnson Space Center, where she'll undertake the training program starting in August.

It's a mission that's been in the works for nearly 60 years. NASA says it will launch a spacecraft in 2018 to "touch the sun," sending it closer to the star's surface than ever before.

The spacecraft is small – its instruments would fit into a refrigerator — but it's built to withstand temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, all the while maintaining room temperature inside the probe.

The morning that the space shuttle Columbia was supposed to return home, Wayne Hale was at the landing site. At age 48, Hale was an up-and-coming manager with NASA. He'd just taken a job overseeing shuttle launches. But since this was a landing day, he didn't have much to do.

Clare Roth

Every year, NASA poses a challenge to schools around the country come up with a prototype that the organization can use in its journey to Mars.

Among the eight winners this year was a team of students at the Ohio State College of Engineering.

Nearly 15 years after her first space launch, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has now spent more time off-planet than any other American, at more than 534 days. Whitson, 57, is a biochemist who has twice commanded the International Space Station.

"It is one of those rides that you hope never ends," Whitson tweeted last night. "I am so grateful for all those who helped me on each of my missions!"

Exoplanet Discovery and Other Space Mysteries

Mar 17, 2017
An illistration of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, which contains seven Earth-like planets.
R. Hurt, T. Pyle / NASA/JPL-Caltech

Today at 11am. 

NASA recently discovered seven Earth-like exoplanets orbiting a star 40 light years away from Earth. Any one of the planets could possibly harbor life, but the three outermost planets lying in the star's "habitable zone" have the most likely chance. Whether they do or don't, this discovery will give scientists insight about the conditions under which life is able to evolve. We'll talk about this discovery and other space news this hour with a panel of guests.

Exoplanet Discovery and Other Space Mysteries

Mar 2, 2017
An illistration of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, which contains seven Earth-like planets.
R. Hurt, T. Pyle / NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA recently discovered seven Earth-like exoplanets orbiting a star 40 light years away from Earth. Any one of the planets could possibly harbor life, but the three outermost planets lying in the star's "habitable zone" have the most likely chance. Whether they do or don't, this discovery will give scientists insight about the conditions under which life is able to evolve. We'll talk about this discovery and other space news this hour with a panel of guests.

Guests:

On Wednesday morning, NASA rewarded five members of the public — two doctors, a dentist, an engineer and a product designer — for their creative ideas for how to poop in a spacesuit.

Yes, it sounds a little bit funny. But unmet toilet needs could have life or death consequences for an astronaut in an emergency situation.

That's why thousands of people spent tens of thousands of hours on the "Space Poop Challenge," brainstorming, modeling, prototyping and number-crunching to come up with a crowd-sourced solution to the problem of human waste in a spacesuit.

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts during a routine test on the launchpad. The accident shocked NASA as the agency was rushing to meet President Kennedy's 1961 challenge to have men on the moon by the end of the decade.

The test was a dress rehearsal for the Apollo 1 crew — Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The ultimate goal was to check out the command module, NASA's first three-man spacecraft that would take astronauts to the moon.

Later today, six people will enter a dome on a volcano in Hawaii that will be their home for the next eight months, as they simulate a future mission to Mars.

It is the fifth such experiment run by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA. The latest mission on Mauna Loa, which ended in August 2016, lasted a full year. It is known as the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS.

The last person to leave footprints on the moon has died. NASA reported that Gene Cernan died Monday at the age of 82, surrounded by his family.

Gene Cernan flew in space three times, including twice to the moon. Cernan was big, brash and gregarious. And if he hadn't been lucky, he could have missed his chance to walk on the moon.

On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn blasted off into space and became the first American to orbit Earth. Behind the scenes, thousands of engineers and mathematicians worked tirelessly to make NASA's Friendship 7 mission a success. Historical photos show them as white men in crisp white shirts and ties — but we now know there's more to that picture.

When a robotic probe finally lands on a watery world like Jupiter's moon Europa, what do scientists have to see to definitively say whether the place has any life?

That's the question retired astronaut John Grunsfeld posed to some colleagues at NASA when he was in charge of the agency's science missions.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson arrived at the International Space Station this weekend, making her the oldest woman in space at age 56. On the mission, she's projected to once again become the U.S. astronaut with the most time spent in orbit.

This is Whitson's third mission on the space station; she'll soon become its commander for the second time. Collectively, she's spent more than a year of her life in space.

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