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Star Trek's Captain Kirk is about to boldly go where hundreds of others have gone before, continuing a decades-long tradition of space flights for non-astronauts who are wealthy or famous or well-connected — or all of the above.

As for ordinary folks without deep pockets — well, the final frontier might be opening up a just a bit, but opportunities still basically come down to contests and luck.

Two scientists have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing "an ingenious tool for building molecules" that is also cheap and environmentally-friendly.

Updated October 5, 2021 at 5:48 PM ET

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, the largest funder of basic and clinical biomedical research in the world, says he will step down by the end of the year.

NASA does not plan to rename its new $10 billion technological marvel, the James Webb Space Telescope, despite concerns about it being named after former NASA administrator James Webb, who went along with government discrimination against gay and lesbian employees in the 1950s and 1960s.

The space agency tells NPR it has investigated the matter and decided to keep the telescope's name as is, ahead of the long-awaited launch in December.

In December, NASA will launch the most powerful telescope ever put into space. The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to study planets outside our solar system with unparalleled detail — including checking to see if their atmospheres give any indication that a planet is home to life as we know it.

In December, NASA is scheduled to launch the huge $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is sometimes billed as the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

The new telescope, the largest and most powerful ever put into space, will travel to a lonely spot 1 million miles from Earth, where it will be able to peer out into the farthest reaches of the universe.

After a setting-up period of about six months, NASA will unveil the telescope's first images to the public.

Anyone who has ever accidentally stepped on a dog's tail has probably wondered if dogs can understand the difference between doing something by mistake about doing it on purpose. Now a new study suggests that, at least in some circumstances, dogs do seem to know when their humans have just screwed up.

A potentially dangerous asteroid called Bennu has a 1 in 1,750 chance of hitting Earth between now and the year 2300.

That's according to the most precise calculations of an asteroid's trajectory ever made, and the odds are slightly worse than NASA previously thought.

Still, the researchers studying Bennu say this doesn't keep them up at night.

A pretty little white flower that grows near urban centers of the Pacific Northwest turns out to be a killer.

The bog-dwelling western false asphodel, Triantha occidentalis, was first described in the scientific literature in 1879. But until now, no one realized this sweet-looking plant used its sticky stem to catch and digest insects, according to researchers who note in their study published Monday it's the first new carnivorous plant to be discovered in about 20 years.

Jason Hodin hauls up a rope that's hanging from a dock in the waters off San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest. At the end is a square, sandwich-size Tupperware container, with mesh-covered holes in the sides to let water flow through. Hodin pulls off the lid and peers inside at some crushed bits of shell. He points to some reddish-orange dots.

"See that? That little dot right there in front of my finger?" Hodin says. "That's a juvenile sea star that's about a month old."

High up on Mount Rainier in Washington, there's a stunning view of the other white-capped peaks in the Cascade Range. But Scott Hotaling is looking down toward his feet, studying the snow-covered ground.

"It's happening," he says, gesturing across Paradise Glacier.

Small black flecks suddenly appear on the previously blank expanse of white. The glacier's surface quickly transforms as more and more tiny black creatures emerge. The ice worms have returned, snaking in between ice crystals and shimmering in the sun.

A black hole swallowing a neutron star — a star more massive than our sun but only about the size of a city — has been observed for the first time ever.

Each of these space monsters is among the most extreme and mysterious phenomena in the universe. The new find, described Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, shows how the very fabric of the universe gets roiled when the two come together.

Right now, a couple of planets about as massive as Earth are orbiting a dim star that's just a dozen light-years away from us. Those planets could be cozy enough to potentially support life. But if any one is living there — and if these life forms have the same kinds of technology that humans do — they wouldn't be able to detect Earth yet.

NASA has decided to send two new missions to Venus, our closest planetary neighbor, making it the first time the agency will go to this scorching hot world in more than three decades.

The news has thrilled planetary scientists who have long argued that Venus deserves more attention because it could be a cautionary tale of a pleasant, Earth-like world that somehow went horribly awry.

Traces of rare forms of iron and plutonium have been found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, after some kind of cataclysm in outer space created this radioactive stuff and sent it raining down on our planet.

An effort to understand the full genetic makeup of more than 70,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes has taken some major steps forward, with scientists unveiling the DNA sequences of 25 species including the Canada lynx, platypus, and zig-zag eel.

Updated April 23, 2021 at 5:24 PM ET

It was 4 o'clock in the morning, well before sunrise, and cold. A light wintry mix of rain and snow was falling. The lousy weather was a relief, as it meant even less of a chance that someone might randomly pass by. The small group of scientists didn't want anyone to see what they were about to do.

More than a billion biological specimens are thought to be stashed away in museums and universities and other places across the United States — everything from dead fish floating in glass jars to dried plants pressed between paper to vials of microbes chilling in a freezer.

Until recently, it's been hard to for researchers to locate all the potentially useful stuff scattered around in storage, even though caretakers say these treasures are like time machines that offer an unrivaled opportunity to understand global change.

Octopuses have alternating periods of "quiet" and "active" sleep that make their rest similar to that of mammals, despite being separated by more than 500 million years of evolution.

During their active periods of sleep, octopuses' skin color changes and their bodies twitch, according to a report in the journal iScience, and they might even have short dreams.

Updated at 5:40 p.m.

A panel of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given its blessing to a new one-shot vaccine for COVID-19.

Tattoo artists in Europe are fighting a new ban on two commonly-used green and blue pigments, saying that losing these ink ingredients would be a disaster for their industry and their art.

Last week, craving sweets, Colin Purrington remembered the Twinkies.

He'd purchased them back in 2012 for sentimental reasons when he heard that Hostess Brands was going bankrupt and Twinkies might disappear forever.

"When there's no desserts in the house, you get desperate," says Purrington, who went down to the basement and retrieved the old box of snack cakes, fully intending to enjoy several.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded this year to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work on "genetic scissors" that can cut DNA at a precise location, allowing scientists to make specific changes to specific genes.

Scientists say they've detected a gas in the clouds of Venus that, on Earth, is produced by microbial life.

The researchers have racked their brains trying to understand why this toxic gas, phosphine, is there in such quantities, but they can't think of any geologic or chemical explanation.

The mystery raises the astonishing possibility that Venus, the planet that comes closest to Earth as it whizzes around the sun, might have some kind of life flourishing more than 30 miles up in its yellow, hazy clouds.

Mike Brown has been using the Hubble Space Telescope pretty consistently for most of the past three decades since it launched in 1990. But recently he had an experience with Hubble that he never had before.

With the annual flu season about to start, it's still unclear exactly how influenza virus will interact with the coronavirus if a person has both viruses.

Water on Earth is omnipresent and essential for life as we know it, and yet scientists remain a bit baffled about where all of this water came from: Was it present when the planet formed, or did the planet form dry and only later get its water from impacts with water-rich objects such as comets?

This year's flu season in the Southern Hemisphere was weirdly mild.

A surprisingly small number of people in the Southern Hemisphere have gotten the flu this year, probably because the public health measures put in place to fight COVID-19 have also limited the spread of influenza.

That makes public health experts hopeful that the U. S. and other northern countries might be spared the double whammy of COVID-19 and a bad flu season this winter.

Still, they warn against complacency and say people still need to get vaccinated against the flu.

When a weather station in Death Valley, Calif., registered an astonishing 130 degrees Fahrenheit this week, it got meteorologists' attention.

After all, there's a possibility that this is the highest such temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth — if it's for real.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

Two NASA astronauts are back on Earth after their space capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Pensacola, Fla.

The last time any NASA astronauts came home by splashing down was in 1975 — and back then, they were in an Apollo space vehicle. This time, the astronauts were in a white, bell-shaped capsule owned by SpaceX.

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