The seven men wearing spacesuits in this portrait made up the first group of astronauts announced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They were selected in April of 1959 for the Mercury Program. In the front row, from left, are Walter M. Schirra Jr., Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glenn Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter. Standing in the back row, from left, are Alan B. Shepard Jr., Virgil I. Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper Jr.
Astronauts John W. Young (in front), command pilot, and Michael Collins, pilot, walk up the ramp at Pad 19 after arriving from the Launch Complex 16 suiting trailer during the prelaunch countdown for the Gemini-10 mission. Moments later, they entered the elevator that took them to the white room, where they could board the waiting spacecraft. Liftoff occurred at 5:20 p.m. ET on July 18, 1966.
Lunar module pilot Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., better known as Buzz Aldrin, walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM) "Eagle" during the extravehicular activity (EVA) portion of the Apollo 11 mission. Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this photograph with a 70 mm lunar surface camera. While astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the Lunar Module (LM) "Eagle" to explore the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon, astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Modules (CSM) "Columbia" in lunar orbit.
Space Shuttle prime and backup astronaut crews prepare to be briefed on the use of the emergency pad escape system, known as the "slidewire," in this photo from January 6, 1981. From left to right are backup astronauts Joe Engle and Richard Truly, and primary crew commander John Young. The slidewire system provided a quick and sure escape from the upper pad platforms in case of a serious emergency.
In this photo captured in February 1984, astronaut Bruce McCandless II uses his hands to control his movement above Earth — and just few meters away from the Challenger — during the first-ever untethered extravehicular activity (EVA). Fellow crew members aboard the Challenger used a 70 mm camera to expose this frame through windows on the flight deck. McCandless was joined by Robert L. Stewart, one of two other mission specialists for this flight, on two sessions of EVA.
The astronaut crew members for NASA's STS-34 mission prepare to participate in emergency egress training at the shuttle landing facility while wearing their partially pressurized flight suits with attached cooling packs. This photo from September 13, 1989, features, from left, astronauts Michael J. McCulley, pilot; mission specialists Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, Ellen S. Baker and Shannon W. Lucid; and Donald E. Williams, mission commander.
NASA astronaut Michael Fincke (left), Expedition 18 commander; and cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, flight engineer, attired in Russian Sokol flight suits, pose in the Unity node of the International Space Station in this photo from March 26, 2009.
Kim Shiflett/NASA
Astronauts participate in NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 dry dress rehearsal in the suit room inside Kennedy Space Center's Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on April 20, 2022. A team of SpaceX suit technicians assisted crew members as they put on their custom-fitted spacesuits and checked the suits for leaks. Pictured, from left, are Jessica Watkins, mission specialist; Bob Hines, pilot; Kjell Lindgren, commander; and Samantha Cristoforetti, mission specialist.
NASA astronaut Eric Boe wears Boeing's new spacesuit designed for astronauts who will fly on the CST-100 Starliner. The suit is lighter and more flexible than previous spacesuits but retains the ability to pressurize in an emergency. Astronauts will wear the suit throughout the launch and ascent into orbit, as well as on the way back to Earth.
Joel Kowsky/NASA
Dustin Gohmert, Orion crew survival systems project manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center, poses for a portrait while wearing the Orion Crew Survival System (OCSS) suit on October 15, 2019, at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. The suit is designed for a custom fit and incorporates safety technology and mobility features that will help protect astronauts while they're aboard the Orion spacecraft.
Joel Kowsky/UPI/Shutterstock
Kristine Davis, a spacesuit engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center, wears a ground prototype of NASA's Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) during a demonstration on October 15, 2019, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The xEMU was designed to improve on the suits previously worn on the moon during the Apollo era and those currently in use for spacewalks outside the International Space Station.
Courtesy Axiom
The AxEMU Spacesuit, developed by Axiom Space, builds on the technology NASA incorporated into its xEMU prototype. The AxEMU, shown here with a black cover, were unveiled during an event on March 15, 2023. The suits worn by astronauts during the Artemis III mission will be white.

A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.

CNN  — 

After more than 50 years of quiet, the moon is about to become a destination for space travelers again.

The public will soon learn the names of the four astronauts who will venture on a journey around the moon next year aboard the Artemis II rocket. The three Americans and one Canadian, to be revealed April 3 by NASA, will fly farther than any humans traveled during the Apollo missions.

The selection process remains secretive, but the astronaut pool is much more diverse than it was decades ago.

As alluded to in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about the space race, each crew member must embody “the right stuff” — demonstrating the traits of a good teammate and effective communicator who expects the unexpected.

And when the Artemis III astronauts take things a step further by landing on the moon possibly as soon as 2025, they will need something else: the right suit.

Defying gravity

Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images
Axiom Chief Engineer Jim Stein wears the new spacesuit during the Axiom Space Artemis III Lunar Spacesuit event at Space Center Houston on March 15.

This week, NASA and Axiom Space unveiled the new spacesuit that will be worn by the first woman and the first person of color to walk on the moon.

The Artemis III crew will aim to land at the unexplored lunar south pole, home to frigid, permanently shadowed regions where ice has remained frozen for billions of years.

The reimagined suit allows for more range of motion and includes extra-insulated boots and other innovations that should make it easier to explore the lunar surface. And it’s about time — the spacesuits US astronauts wear haven’t been upgraded since the Space Shuttle Program was active.

The prototype of the new design Axiom Space revealed appears black, blue and orange. However, the actual suits will be the traditional white from the Apollo days to protect the astronauts from wild temperature swings.


Dinosaurs were some of the largest creatures to roam Earth. Now, researchers have discovered one that broke records among giants.

A dino called Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum once enjoyed munching on the leafy greens of trees — which it handily could reach because the creature had a massive neck longer than a school bus.

The sauropod’s 49.5-foot-long (15.1-meter-long) neck, the longest of any known dinosaur, allowed it to stand in place and chow down for hours.

But how did Mamenchisaurus manage not to feel weighed down by such an extreme feature? The secret was in its air-filled bones.

The wonder

Kenji Suetsugu
A newly discovered species of orchid was found in Japan.

A stunning species of orchid has been newly discovered blooming in rural gardens and suburban balcony planters in Japan.

The rare find, with delicate pink-and-white blossoms that appear to be spun from glass, belongs to a group of orchids called Spiranthes, or “ladies tresses.”

Scientists were able to tell this orchid apart from others in its family because the flowers bloomed earlier and the plant has smooth, rather than hairy, stems.

Other worlds

When a NASA mission scientist recently revisited images of Venus from 1991 captured by the Magellan spacecraft, he noticed something unusual. Two photos of the same feature taken months apart seemed drastically different.

Eight months after Magellan’s first pass, a vent on one of the planet’s largest volcanoes had nearly doubled in size and was filled with a lava lake.

The change reveals never-before-seen evidence of volcanic activity on the surface of Venus, something future missions can follow up on within a decade.

Meanwhile, the search for water on Mars has turned up signs of a recent glacier that existed near the red planet’s warm equator.

The glacier is no longer present. But researchers spotted a crusty layer of salt that preserved surprising details of the ice chunk — and it’s right in an area where humans may eventually land on Mars.

Ocean secrets

Brian Lapointe | FAU Harbor Branch
A giant mass of seaweed is headed for the shores of Florida and elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Beware of The Blob, it creeps / And leaps and glides and slides / Across the floor!”

Those dramatic lyrics are from the theme song of the 1958 film “The Blob,” but they also serve as a warning about a giant mass making its way across the ocean. A tangled ball of sargassum seaweed spanning more than 5,000 miles (8,047 kilometers) has formed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The floating blob — which may be the largest on record — could dump smelly clumps of seaweed on beaches in Florida and elsewhere along the Gulf of Mexico this summer.

The unprecedented phenomenon could pose grave risks for humans and ocean life alike.

The seaweed mass makes for a great habitat for fish and other marine creatures, but it can also create dead zones — and even release toxic gas once it hits land.


Prepare to have your mind blown:

— This may be scarier than the blob. Scientists found “terrifying” rocks made from plastic debris on Brazil’s volcanic Trindade Island.

— The remains of a Roman aristocrat were found buried with her jewelry in a lead-lined coffin after archaeologists discovered a hidden cemetery in northern England.

— The James Webb Space Telescope captured a scintillating new image of a rare star that’s on the brink of exploding.

Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writers Ashley Strickland and Katie Hunt. They find wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

View on CNN