NPR Staff

The Voyager spacecraft have revolutionized our understanding of our solar system since their launch in 1977. After decades of sending back data on our planetary neighbors, Voyager 1 and 2 are entering new territory: interstellar space.

In a new book, The Interstellar Age: Inside The Forty-Year Voyager Mission, planetary scientist Jim Bell shares the amazing human stories behind the machines' mission.

In the 1960s in California, the state wanted children to be adopted into two-parent homes. But officials were having trouble placing hundreds of children, especially older boys.

Bill Jones, a gay man living in San Francisco, had always wanted to be a father. He decided to apply.

"They were looking for somebody with family in the area and I had family in the area," Jones told his friend Stu Maddux, on a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were looking for somebody that had some contact with children. I had been a schoolteacher for six years."

After Sept. 11, President George Bush made a speech about America's enemies — Iran, Iraq and North Korea — in which he referred to them as the "Axis of Evil." At first, that name worried Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani. But then he decided to do what he always does: laugh about it. He and some friends even started the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, which featured comedians of Middle Eastern descent.

Afghanistan was a different world when Rula Ghani moved there from Lebanon as a newlywed in the 1970s. Untouched by war, its small middle class was open to the wider world.

She had met her husband, Ashraf, while studying political science at the American University of Beirut. He was an Afghan Muslim; she, a Lebanese Christian.

They would go on to make a life together — first in Afghanistan, then in America, where she got a degree from Columbia University and became an American citizen, and he taught at Johns Hopkins before moving on to the World Bank.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley apologized on Tuesday to the government of India for an incident, captured on a squad car's dashboard camera, in which officers slammed an Indian man to the ground.

Christian McBride remembers very well the first time he heard A Love Supreme, the John Coltrane classic that turns 50 this month. The bassist, composer and host of NPR's Jazz Night in America was in high school in Philadelphia, and had grown friendly with the staff at record store he passed on his daily commute.

Is America in decline? Or an unparalleled leader on the global stage? Is the nation coping well with the challenges of the 21st century — from health care and education to the threat of terrorism — or is it falling behind other world powers?

Some argue that, while other developed nations have watched their share of global GDP shrink, the United States has remained an economic powerhouse. The U.S. military is unrivaled, they add, the world's top universities are American and the nation remains a leader in technological innovation.

As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Before he called play-by-play for the Los Angeles Lakers, before he called the Olympics, before he called the World Series, before he called Monday Night Football, sportscaster Adrián García Márquez was handing out flyers and bumper stickers for a hip-hop station in San Diego.

New Zealand-born photographer Amos Chapple was a long, long way from home. Out in the middle of Russia's vast Sakha Republic, an area that spans over 1 million square miles, he was heading towards the world's coldest city.

And he was alone.

In these far reaches of northeast Russia, Chapple says, "If people don't need to be outside, they won't be outside. So in the smaller towns, they all look abandoned. And if you see somebody, they're racing between doors with mitts clasped over faces hurrying to get inside again."

Director Wes Anderson is known for his especially exacting visual style — an attention to detail that goes right down to the individual hairs on his actors' faces.

Take The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson's historical fairy tale about a luxury central European hotel on the edge of war in the 1930s. Nearly every male character in the film has some kind of painstakingly designed facial hair.

If you know comedian David Cross, chances are you recognize him from his role as Tobias in the TV comedy Arrested Development. Now Cross is making his directorial debut with the dark comedy Hits, a film that explores how easy it is to become famous in our celebrity-obsessed culture.

The movie was released Friday on BitTorrent, an online file-sharing system that's often associated with piracy. The film's producers are asking downloaders merely to pay what they want.

Yusor Abu-Salha was one of the young students killed in Tuesday's shooting in Chapel Hill, N.C.

She and her former third-grade teacher, Mussarut Jabeen, spoke to StoryCorps in May. In fact, all three victims in the shooting — Abu-Salha, 21, her husband, Deah Barakat, 23, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19 — attended the Al-Iman School in Raleigh, N.C., where Jabeen taught.

Jabeen returned to StoryCorps Wednesday to talk about that 2014 conversation with Abu-Salha.

In addition to poems and plays and stories, Langston Hughes also wrote letters — a lot of letters. The letters — compiled for the first time in Selected Letters of Langston Hughes -- offer insight into a man deeply devoted to his craft, and chronicle his often tumultuous personal and professional relationships.

"He was an inveterate letter writer," Arnold Rampersad, co-editor of the compilation, tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "He would write sometimes 30 or 40 working late into the night, into the early morning. He believed in letters and he also saved them."

In March 2011, photojournalist Lynsey Addario was kidnapped in Libya while covering the fighting between dictator Moammar Gadhafi's troops and rebel forces. She was with Anthony Shadid, Tyler Hicks and Stephen Farrell in the town of Ajdabiya, all on assignment for The New York Times.

Looking back, Addario says she had a premonition that something bad would happen.

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