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April 2015

On Sept. 21, 2014, the spacecraft MAVEN completed a 10-month journey and slipped into orbit around the planet Mars. Designed to explore the Martian atmosphere and its history, MAVEN will help scientists to better understand the history of Mars’ climate and planetary habitability. Along with other exploration tools, MAVEN will help clear the path for humans to visit Mars, a mission NASA is working to complete in the 2030s. 

Some kids grow up knowing they want to be astronauts. Not Steve Swanson. For Swanson, a Colorado resident, the realization came at age 25 when he was finishing up his master’s degree in computer systems. 

“I really started to think about what I wanted to do in the long-term at that point in my life,” says Swanson. “That’s when I came up with the idea of being an astronaut.” 

Walter Plywaski was just 10 years old in January 1940 when he was forced by the Germans into the urban concentration camp of the Lódz Ghetto in Poland. After hiding with his family for about one month, he was forced to endure both the Auschwitz and 7 Dachau Nazi concentration camps, where he experienced first-hand the horrors of life during the Holocaust. 

fire alarm, a tornado siren, a crying baby – they’re all important audible cues that help people keep themselves and others safe. But for those with a hearing disability, navigating such sounds can be a challenge. To help, many turn to man’s best friend. Assistance dogs can alert an individual with hearing loss to important notifications in the home, workplace and out in the community.

In 2011, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a children’s library and after-school program in Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador. The program enabled me to live on the Fundación del Mundo complex, work in the children’s library – La Biblioteca Interactíva or La Bib for short – and teach English classes in the evening to local adults who primarily worked in the tourism industry.  

As people, we’re instinctually drawn to language as a means of communication. After all, it’s one of the things that makes us truly human. According to the National Science Foundation, nearly all human beings will be native speakers of at least one language by age 5. But what comes so naturally as a small child becomes a more challenging task after adolescence, when the brain has a more difficult time building rules around sound and language structure. 

I’m in uncharted territory, marching words across the page one after the other until they say something that feels true. I never really know where I’m headed or how I’m going to get there, wherever there turns out to be. No matter how much I research and prepare, no matter how clearly I envision the destination, writing is always like this for me, a journey of discovery. It’s exciting, often frustrating, always difficult — which is exactly how any worthwhile journey should be.