NASA Just Launched a New Podcast, and It's All About Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A NASA spacecraft dubbed InSight is currently hurtling its way through space at a speed of 13,000 mph. Its destination is Mars, and scientists want to broadcast its progress every bit of the way. To do just that, the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has launched a new podcast titled “On a Mission.” Hosted by science journalist Leslie Mullen, the eight-episode series will follow InSight as it journeys hundreds of millions of miles through the cosmos and attempts to land on the “harsh, desert, alien world” of Mars on November 26.

If successful, InSight—short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport—will be the first robotic explorer to study the Red Planet’s deep interior. Scientists know a great deal about the planet’s surface, but the same can’t be said for its “inner space,” including its crust, mantle, and core. There’s a bigger picture to be gained, too: This information will not only improve our understanding of Mars, but will also help paint a picture of how Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury formed more than 4 billion years ago.

The first episode of the podcast broaches the “danger of going to Mars.” Although InSight successfully launched earlier this year on May 5, landing and descending will be the vessel's next big challenge. It will enter the Martian atmosphere at a velocity of 14,100 mph, and a parachute will be deployed to help it slow down. Retro rockets will then be fired off, letting it slowly descend to the surface. “On Mars the atmosphere is thick enough to burn you up on entry, but thin enough to make landing with a parachute extremely tricky,” Mullen says in the first episode. Fewer than half of past missions to Mars have been successful.

Two episodes are currently available on the InSight website, SoundCloud, and Apple Podcasts, and a new episode will be released each week in the lead-up to InSight’s attempted landing. Future seasons of the podcast are also expected, and those will focus on different NASA missions.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

How to See August’s Full Sturgeon Moon

It'd be pure lunacy to skip an opportunity to see this beauty.
It'd be pure lunacy to skip an opportunity to see this beauty.
mnchilemom, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This summer has been an especially exciting time for avid sky-gazers—the NEOWISE comet flew close to Earth in mid-July, and the ongoing Perseid meteor shower is gearing up for its peak around August 11. Though full moons aren’t quite as rare, the sight of a glowing white orb illuminating the night is still worth a glance out your window.

When Is August’s Full Moon?

As The Old Farmer’s Almanac reports, the eighth full moon of 2020 will reach its peak at 11:59 a.m. EST on Monday, August 3. If that’s daytime where you live, you’ll have to wait for the sun to set that night, or you can catch it the night before—Sunday, August 2.

Why Is It Called a Sturgeon Moon?

Each month’s full moon has a nickname (or multiple nicknames), usually of folk origin, that coincides with certain plant, animal, or weather activity common at that time of year. January’s full moon, for example, was named the “wolf moon” because wolves were said to howl more often during January. June’s “strawberry moon” occurred when strawberries were ripe and ready to be picked.

Since people caught an abundance of sturgeon—a large freshwater fish that’s been around since the Mesozoic era—in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain during this part of summer, they started calling August’s full moon the sturgeon moon. It has a few lesser-known monikers, too, including the “full green corn moon” (a nod to the approaching harvest season), and the slightly wordy “moon when all things ripen.”

[h/t The Old Farmer’s Almanac]