Later this week, NASA is expected to launch the Parker Solar Probe on a mission to touch the sun. Well, almost touch the sun.


On Wednesday, April 18th, NASA launched a science satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the first time.  After the launch, SpaceX managed to pull off its signature move, landing the first stage of the rocket booster on a barge.


SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch has ignited hopes of sending humans back to the moon, and on to Mars. But what about that cherry-red Tesla left floating through space?

NASA/JPL-Caltech /

On Friday, the Cassini spacecraft ended its 20 year voyage with a dramatic kamikaze descent into Saturn.

But that's not quite the end of the story. 

Loral O'Hara, a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is one of twelve new NASA astronaut candidates.
Courtesy of NASA / Public Domain

NASA's new class of astronaut candidates will likely have a shot at being among the first humans to visit Mars. That, plus media coverage of commercial space flight and a major social media push, may have contributed to a record 18,300 applicants. In the end, twelve were selected, including Loral O'Hara, a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (for two more months).

Researchers are naming landmarks on Mars after their favorite places in the state of Maine.
NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI) / Public Domain

There’s a lot of news out there to sift through. Science news is no exception. Here are five stories from the past month that are worth a quick read (or listen):

RISD Builds a Mars Suit

Dec 19, 2016
RISD/Jo Sittenfeld

One challenge astronauts face as they prepare for a mission to Mars is that they haven’t got a thing to wear.

For example, astronaut Andrzej Stewart had to wear a hazmat suit during his training at the Mars simulation center on Hawaii known as HI-SEAS. That suit just wasn’t realistic.

The problem is, it’s too expensive to build actual Mars space suits just to train on Earth. A fully functional Mars suit would cost millions of dollars to build. Plus, it would be extremely heavy. (Mars has 62 percent lower gravity than the Earth.)

Kip Thorne to Speak at Umass Dartmouth Today

Mar 29, 2016

Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne is the executive producer and science advisor for the 2014 film Interstellar. Black holes and gravity anomalies feature prominently in that film, and have been the subject of Kip Thorne’s research career.  He subsequently wrote a book about the science of Interstellar.