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The planet Mars will swing really close to Earth Friday night, making our neighbor’s bright red-orange light outshine Jupiter’s in the night sky.

James Vaughan / Flickr

Humans are great at making a mess of things. So far, however, that mess has been confined to Earth. But as we develop into a spacefaring species, our capacity for destruction, pollution, and prejudice (towards aliens of earthly and unearthly origins) threatens to have cosmic consequences.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr

If there's one thing that unites us all (literally, ALL of us) it's gravity. Gravity attracts every bit of matter in the universe to every other bit of matter in the universe, no exceptions! But for something (a warping of space-time, to be precise) so universally present, it remains one of the least understood forces in physics.

NASA's InSight lander is on its way to Mars, after a successful launch on Saturday morning.

The lander was launched by an Atlas V rocket taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California shortly after 4 a.m. local time. It successfully separated from the upper stage more than an hour later.

The lander is in contact with mission control as it heads off on its six-month trip to the Red Planet.

"Starman" in Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster with Earth in the background
SpaceX / Flickr

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk made history in February when his Falcon Heavy rocket launched a red Tesla convertible into outer space. In the driver seat is a dummy astronaut dubbed “Starman” who’s now flying through space, orbiting the sun.

This week, the skywatchers will experience a flashy double feature: The Geminid meteor shower — one of the year's best — will coincide with an unusually close encounter by an asteroid.

That asteroid? It's called 3200 Phaethon, discovered by a NASA satellite in 1983. With a diameter of about 3 miles, it's the third-largest near-Earth asteroid classified by the space agency as "potentially hazardous."

President Trump has formally told NASA to send U.S. astronauts back to the moon.

"The directive I'm signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery," he said.

Standing at the president's side as he signed "Space Policy Directive 1" on Monday was Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, one of the last two humans to ever walk on the moon, in a mission that took place 45 years ago this week.

NASA/Crew of STS-129

The International Space Station is the most expensive thing ever built. It's about the size of a football field, it weighs a million pounds, and it's up there flying around in the sky at 17,000 mph, but... we don't really ever hear much about it, do we?

Well, so, this hour we hear about it.

Research shows girls and boys perform equally well in science, technology, engineering and math while in school. But that doesn't always follow into careers in the STEM workforce where, particularly in certain fields, there's still a gender gap.

Jon Olsen

Priya Natarajan has what some might call an affinity for the impalpable. Black holes. Galaxies. The intricacies of the universe.

This hour, the Yale-based astrophysicist talks about the experiences that triggered her curiosity and zeal for "exotica." It's the latest in WNPR's "Making Her Story" series, recorded live at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, Connecticut. 

Georg Aumer / Flickr

We originally aired this show last August, a full year before the excitement over the solar eclipse. Enjoy!

What can you say about the sun? It sits not only at the center of our solar system but has, over time, been at the center of religions, scriptures, songs, art and countless other aspects of our culture.

Patrick Skahill / WNPR

A total solar eclipse crossed the nation coast to coast on Monday. In Connecticut, a partial eclipse was visible, and many people went outside to watch.

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A Connecticut man is traveling across the country to take in Monday’s solar eclipse from a coveted viewing spot -- above the clouds.

tele / flickr

Since the earliest humans gazed up at the sky, eclipses have been a common occurrence. But only in recent centuries have we come to understood the science behind them. Prior to that, eclipses were regarded as everything from Viking sky wolves to Korean fire-dogs, to African versions of a celestial reconciliation.

David DesRoches / WNPR

It took about 20 minutes and two helium tanks to fill up the huge latex balloon. A rope dangling from the bottom held onto an assortment of gadgets, including a video camera, parachute, and a razor attached to motor that was programmed to cut the rope at just the right altitude.

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