NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via Flickr CC /

We’ve seen this dance before: presidential hopefuls stumping in New Hampshire. Today, we talk to the official candidate from the Transhumanist Party who says we need a new political party and new tactics for the issues of our time. Then, Jackie Robinson’s major league debut was an obvious, watershed moment in America’s troubled racial history. But we’ll look at a lesser known moment for American civil rights: breaking NASA’s color barrier and the story of the first African Americans in the space program.

New images of Pluto have arrived from a NASA space probe, and they're already allowing scientists to update what we know about the dwarf planet — such as its size. NASA's New Horizons probe has traveled more than 3 billion miles to send photos and data about Pluto back to Earth.

Astronaut & Children's Book Author Mark Kelly

Mar 25, 2015
Simon & Schuster

Astronaut Scott Kelly will be heading to the International Space Station for a year-long mission aimed at studying the physiological effects of prolonged space-flight. Crucial to the study is Scott’s twin brother Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut who will participate by staying here on earth, as a sort of controlled variable. Virginia spoke with Mark about the mission.

Wikimedia Commons

We’ve seen this dance before: presidential hopefuls stumping in New Hampshire. On today’s show, we’ll talk to the official candidate from the Transhumanist Party who says we need a new political party and new tactics for the issues of our time.

Then, Jackie Robinson’s major league debut was an obvious, watershed moment in America’s troubled racial history. But we’ll look at a lesser known moment for American civil rights: breaking NASA’s color barrier and the story of the first African Americans in the space program.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Sky Guys: An Astronomy Update

Mar 12, 2014
James Pouliot / NHPR

We’ll check in about the latest from the International Space Station, talk about new planet finds by NASA, and look ahead to some highlights coming up to watch out for in the night sky.



China’s lunar rover, Jade Rabbit, landed on the moon to study the satellite’s terrain, geology, and lava flows. What else might it find? Dirty laundry, golf balls, bags of human waste, and an American flag.  There are loads of items left on the moon by NASA’s Apollo missions -- still perfectly preserved because the moon lacks a destructive atmosphere. With a handful of countries announcing plans for future lunar missions, a number of scientists are arguing that moon trash is an archeological treasure that should be preserved and studied by future generations. But with no laws or lunar governing body to protect, say, the first footprint on the moon, some worry that America’s lunar heritage could be destroyed by a new generation of explorers rushing to reach the moon.

Tom Magliery via flickr Creative Commons

A montage of new ideas, picked fresh from the Word of Mouth vault:

  • Abolishing tips:  usually, the debate around gratuity revolves around whether to leave 15 or 20 %.... Head of the Sustainable Restaurant Project at the University of Guelph , Bruce McAdams,  is in favor of getting rid of tips altogether.
  • Balloon Brigade: the career aptitude test video game.  A new startup designs mobile games that could help match fresh grads with job opportunities. 
  • The science behind the buzz: journalist and science writer Joseph Stromberg explains caffeine addiction.

NASA/Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility

And now for a project that sounds more like something from a Pixar movie than the next big thing in space exploration…the High Altitude Lensing Observatory, or HALO, could be the Hubble telescope’s successor in deep space imaging – but instead of orbiting earth from space, scientists are hoping to hang this giant telescope from a great…big…balloon.

One of the scientists working on the project is Dr. Richard Massey, an astronomer at The Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Don Pettit

NASA’s Don Pettit has been back from his last mission aboard the International Space Station for over a year, but his blog “Letters to Earth” remains one of the most fascinating and profound windows into the creative and emotional life of an astronaut.  While in space he penned and published poetry, An Astronaut’s Guide to Space Etiquette, and the series, “Diary of a Space Zucchini”, which detailed life on the ISS from the unusual perspective of a se

NASA via

Astronauts  Mark and Scott Kelly are the only siblings who have both traveled in space. The fact that they are identical twins makes them unique test subjects for a new scientific experiment being conducted by NASA to study the effects of long term space travel on the human body.

Jacob Aron is a technology reporter for New Scientist and creator of the website, “Just a Theory.” He wrote about the Kelly brothers “Twin Mission” in the latest issue of New Scientist magazine.


As we learned from Joe Hanson, space weather can be an amazing thing. As receiving real-time space weather forecasts is becoming more of a reality, it would be good to familiarize yourself with some of the weather events you can expect to see. We’ve compiled a list to test your space weather knowledge. All of these events sound fantastic and have been the fodder for many a Sci-Fi plot, but do you know which one of these 4 space weather events isn’t real?


It’s summer storm season, and before heading out of the house it’s not a bad idea to take a quick glance at your local Doppler Radar to avoid getting caught in a downpour.  The breadth and scope of weather forecasting has advanced rapidly in the past few decades – now, the United Kingdom’s National Weather Service is partnering with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to begin providing forecasts of space weather in near real-time. We wanted to get a better idea of what a space forecast might sound like, so we called Joe Hanson - host and writer of the PBS digital studio’s It’s Okay To Be Smart.

Jeff Houck/John Stavely via Flickr Creative Commons

Florida’s Aerospace Economic Development Agency is making plans to build a new commercial spaceport not far from the Kennedy Space Center – home of NASA’s now retired shuttle program. There’s just one problem: the land is already occupied.  To learn more, producer Taylor Quimby caught up with Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittmanwho wrote about Space Florida’s proposal to build on top of an  18th century sugar factory and archaeological site called the Elliott Plantation.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via Flickr Creative Commons

Sequestration cuts to the NASA budget will likely result in hundreds of millions of dollars lost to the Russian government. Joining us to discuss this "self-defeating cash transfusion to Moscow" is John Matson. John is an associate editor who writes about space, physics and mathematics for Scientific American.

Two years ago, a press conference was held at NASA headquarters, where it was declared that an alien life form had been discovered in Earth’s backyard. It wasn’t green and it didn’t say “take me to your leader”.  But still, this tiny microbe dubbed “arsenic-life” caused quite a ruckus in the scientific community. Dan Vergano is a science correspondent for USA Today and he joins us to discuss his investigation into the study.

Five Reasons NOT to Take That Trip to Mars

Jan 15, 2013
Urban Don via Flickr Creative Commons

From the imagination of Ray Bradbury to the front pages of our newspapers, the prospect of traversing vast reaches of space and seeing Mars firsthand has long inhabited and excited the idealistic public consciousness. However, our recent talk with psychiatrist Mathias Basner revealed that the odyssey comes with a number of physiological costs. Here are some of the most prominent known bodily effects of long-term space travel:

1. “Puffy Face Syndrome”

If you think it’s difficult to get enough sleep in an age of 24 hours news cycles and the allure of Facebook surfing, consider how hard it must be without the sun…or gravity. The first of many studies on the Mars500 Project have been released, and it documented the sleeping habits of five men isolated on earth for 520 days.

Credit Luke Bryant via Flickr Creative Commons

The success of the Mars Rover Curiosity has re-invigorated public interest in a manned mission to mars. Millions viewed the “seven minutes of terror” video following the one-ton Curiosity’s suspenseful drop 13,000 miles an hour to zero as it landed on the  surface of Mars. Long before the mission took off, scientists were grappling with other terrifying and seemingly mundane logistics of sending humans to mars.

Photo Credit Luke Bryant via Flickr Creative Commons

Thanks to the popularity of the Mars rover, Curiosity, NASA is back in the public eye for something other than budget cuts or program terminations. The excitement and pride felt by many Americans over the rover’s successful landing, has NASA exploring ways to capitalize and build on this wave of public interest. Susan Waldman, a Washington Post business columnist, and co-founder of ZilYen, branding and marketing communication, gives her thoughts on NASA’s branding strategies.

On Tuesday morning, space shuttle Discovery will become the first of NASA's three shuttles — plus a shuttle prototype — to travel to its new retirement home.

NASA flew its last shuttle flight in July. Since then, it's been prepping the spaceships to become museum displays. And even though the shuttles are headed to places like Los Angeles and New York rather than the space station, figuring out how to get them there has still been a major undertaking.

Roger Boisjoly was a booster rocket engineer at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol in Utah in January, 1986, when he and four colleagues became embroiled in the fatal decision to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Boisjoly was also one of two confidential sources quoted by NPR three weeks later in the first detailed report about the Challenger launch decision, and the stiff resistance by Boisjoly and other Thiokol engineers.

Photo by urbanmkr, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Part 1: "Ready for Liftoff: 3...2...None?"

Photo by, floridanaturephotography, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

The latest twist in the Obama administration’s so-called Asian pivot. The president’s chief science advisor, John Holdren, has said the US would benefit from cooperating with China on future space missions. But federal legislation now prohibits NASA from pursuing such efforts with a little known clause that’s popped up in two pieces of legislation within the past year.