Could You Pass This Astronaut Aptitude Test?

Paul Campbell/iStock via Getty Images
Paul Campbell/iStock via Getty Images

Though NASA just celebrated the milestone 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, a decade earlier—in 1958—they launched Project Mercury, the first human-powered space program. NASA put potential astronauts through rigorous trials and whittled the mission down to just seven men: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, and Deke Slayton.

Since 1959, NASA has offered an Astronaut Candidate program, which currently has 338 candidates who train at Houston's Johnson Space Center for two years before becoming eligible for flight assignments. Clearly it’s a competitive program: In 2017, NASA received 18,300 applications and selected just 12 candidates.

Think you have what it takes to live out your Star Wars or SpaceCamp fantasies? Take this Astronaut Test to see if you've got the right stuff. Though it's not an official NASA test, the questions are based on the space agency's official candidate requirements as well as several psychological tests.

The Astronaut Test is comprised of 15 questions that examine six criteria: physicality, spatial visualization, knowledge, education, abstract reasoning/IQ, and personality. Questions include simple things like "how tall are you?" and "how old are you?" (NASA doesn’t have an age requirement, but the average candidate is 34 years old) to "how do you handle stress?" (selections range from “I think I respond well” to “I tend to crumble”), "do you speak Russian?," and "do you have a degree in engineering and/or mathematics?" (Buzz Aldrin has a degree in mechanical engineering). Other questions involve solving visual puzzles and naming the planets in order (remember your "My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Served Us Noodles" mnemonic device from elementary school).

Because it’s an online test, it’s easy to cheat and look up the answers, like the order of the planets. But where’s the fun in doing that?

Though NASA is currently not accepting applications for the Astronaut Candidate program, that might change in the future. So it pays to be prepared. You can take the Astronaut Test here.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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The 2020 Perseid Meteor Shower Is Coming

Barry Mulling, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Barry Mulling, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Stargazers know that August is an exciting time of the year. This month marks the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, which many astronomers consider the best and most consistent meteor shower. Here's everything you need to know to catch the event in 2020.

What is the Perseid meteor shower?

The Earth passes through the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet each summer. When this happens, debris from the comet burns up in our planet's atmosphere, resulting in vibrant shooting stars that are visible at night. These meteors appear to originate from the constellation Perseus, which is where the annual shower gets its name.

The Perseids are famous for putting on a reliably spectacular show. When conditions are perfect, you can count up to 150 shooting stars zipping across the sky in a single hour. Most years, the Perseids peak at around 60 shooting stars per hour.

When to see the Perseids

The Perseid meteor shower starts in mid-July and lasts through late August. This year, the event will peak in the early mornings of August 11, 12, and 13. The moon enters its last quarter phase around that time, which means shooting stars will be harder to spot in 2020 than in a typical year. You can expect to count as many as 40 or 50 meteors per hour when the shower peaks. That's still an improvement over last year, when the Perseids' peak coincided with a nearly full moon.