Nell Greenfieldboyce

Nell Greenfieldboyce is a NPR science correspondent.

With reporting focused on general science, NASA, and the intersection between technology and society, Greenfieldboyce has been on the science desk's technology beat since she joined NPR in 2005.

In that time Greenfieldboyce has reported on topics including the narwhals in Greenland, the ending of the space shuttle program, and the reasons why independent truckers don't want electronic tracking in their cabs.

Much of Greenfieldboyce's reporting reflects an interest in discovering how applied science and technology connects with people and culture. She has worked on stories spanning issues such as pet cloning, gene therapy, ballistics, and federal regulation of new technology.

Prior to NPR, Greenfieldboyce spent a decade working in print, mostly magazines including U.S. News & World Report and New Scientist.

A graduate of Johns Hopkins, earning her Bachelor's of Arts degree in social sciences and a Master's of Arts degree in science writing, Greenfieldboyce taught science writing for four years at the university. She was honored for her talents with the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists.

The final space shuttle mission means that the 30-year-old shuttle program is about to enter the history books alongside the famous Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.

And as the end of the shuttle era looms, NASA leaders say they're about to build a new vehicle, one that will let astronauts go exploring deep into space. But some experts doubt that plan will ever get off the ground.

To understand the big question mark hanging over NASA's future, it helps to first turn the clock back to 2004 — the year after the space shuttle Columbia disaster.

Once space shuttle Atlantis touches down on Earth later this week, workers will start the process of transforming the spaceship into a museum piece.

To see how that mothballing process will unfold, I recently went on a rare tour of Discovery, one of NASA's other shuttles.

Discovery was set up with its landing gear down in a secure hangar at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where technicians normally do work on the shuttles after each flight.

As space shuttle Atlantis orbits the Earth on NASA's last shuttle mission, it's worth remembering that key parts of this high-tech spaceship were handmade by people back here on Earth.

Five years ago, NPR profiled a few of the workers who make pieces of NASA's shuttles, using everyday tools like sewing needles and X-ACTO knives. With the shuttle program ending, NPR revisited those people to see how their lives are changing now that the shuttles will no longer need them.

If you opened up a copy of the magazine Popular Science back in 1974, you'd see an artist's conception of a blastoff for the new spaceship that NASA was building. The headline: "Reusable Space Shuttle ... Our Biggest Bargain In Out-Of-This-World Research." The era of cheap, routine spaceflight was about to begin.

The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is facing cost overruns and years of delay before it launches, but that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of scientists who are meeting in Baltimore this week to talk about the amazing research they want to do with the James Webb Space Telescope.