Soar as an astronaut or with the crickets: Your weekend reading list

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On Dec. 24, 2013, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins participates in the second of two U.S. spacewalks to change out a faulty water pump on the International Space Station. He was joined on both spacewalks by NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, whose image shows up in Hopkins' helmet visor.

This week marks 15 years of human habitation of the International Space Station; CBS announces the return of Star Trek to the small screen after a decade-long absence; and NASA is asking who has the right stuff to become one of the next generation of astronauts to soar among the stars.

Learn how Mars lost its atmosphere to the solar wind, how crickets soar in our own atmosphere, and watch the thermonuclear fire of the sun in ultraviolet light.

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Be an astronaut

NASA wants you to apply to be an astronaut. In anticipation of returning to the business of launching manned space flights from the U.S., NASA is looking to expand its astronaut ranks. Between the commercial manned craft being developed, the International Space Station and the upcoming Orion spacecraft, astronauts will soon have many options for leaving the atmosphere. via NASA

Parth to 2014 MU69
Projected route of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft toward 2014 MU69, which orbits in the Kuiper Belt about 1 billion miles beyond Pluto. Planets are shown in their positions on Jan. 1, 2019, when New Horizons is projected to reach the small Kuiper Belt object.

How NASA is steering New Horizons toward a tiny space rock in the Kuiper Belt

As New Horizons continues to stream data from the Pluto flyby, planning for the next flyby is already in motion. The probe is now tracking 2014 MU69, a Kuiper belt object, for a rendezvous in January 2019. via Wired

Inside the 50-year quest to build a mechanical heart

From the Jarvik heart to the latest artificial hearts of Carmat and SynCardia, the search for a man-made replacement heart is an elusive grail. via The Verge

SynCardia Freedom driver system
Alvin Carter shows the SynCardia Freedom driver system that is pumping his artificial heart. The Freedom driver system is the first device small enough to allow patients to leave the hospital. The device's portability is a first, since its predecessor required the patient to be tethered to a 400-pound machine. Photographed on Thursday, April 12, 2012.
Alex Kolyer | MPR file

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The solar wind stripped most of the atmosphere from Mars when the magnetic field stopped

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) team has been able to determine the mechanisms and rate by which the atmosphere of Mars was stripped away. The sun emits a constant stream of ionized particles — the solar wind — and on planets with strong magnetic fields, like Earth, the solar wind is held at bay, protecting the atmosphere. Without this field, the planet is exposed to the raw solar wind, allowing it to strip away the atmosphere.

The MAVEN team estimates that most of the atmospheric loss happened between 4.2 and 3.7 billion years ago, starting when the magnetic field of Mars ceased around 4.2 billion years ago. The exact cause for the ending of Mars' magnetic field is unknown and another mission is studying that. Currently on Mars the solar wind strips away around a quarter pound of oxygen and carbon dioxide each day. via NASA

Cricket ballet

A camel cricket is able to jump long distances, and remain stable during the flight, by using its entire body to soar through the air. via New York Times

Bonus solar fire

Thermonuclear art: The sun

30 minutes of the nuclear fire that keep us warm from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center