The space snowman that was the focus of a close encounter with NASA's New Horizons probe last year is helping scientists answer a cosmic question: How did the building blocks of the solar system get their start?

"This is a game-changer," said Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute and principal investigator for the New Horizons mission.

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NASA says it'll take applications for its next class of astronauts between March 2 and 31 — the first step in what's expected to be a yearlong selection process.

To start the process, would-be spacefliers should click into USAJobs.com next month. For the first time in NASA history, applicants will be required to fill out a detailed online assessment that could take as long as two hours to complete.

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After waiting out high winds, Rocket Lab's low-cost Electron rocket launched a top-secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office from New Zealand, halfway around the world from the U.S. spy satellite agency's headquarters.

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