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Inside Space (Dec 5th, 2017)

At 13 billion miles from Earth, NASA last week successfully fired up the backup thrusters on Voyager 1, which hadn't been used in 37 years. "We will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years," said Suzanne Dodd, the project manager for Voyager. Three years ago, NASA engineers started to realize the thrusters were degrading. Voyager 1 is the only human-made object outside our solar system. It takes about 19 hours and 35 minutes for a signal from Voyager 1 to bounce back to Earth, so scientists had to wait almost an entire day after firing up the thrusters last week to see if they worked. With a few more years of life expected from the spacecraft, experts think Voyager 1's equipment will be turned off by 2025. When Voyager 1 first began its mission, it flew by Jupiter and Saturn. The probe entered interstellar space in August 2012. Scientists said Voyager 1's next milestone will be its flyby of star AC +79 3888, which will happen in about 40,000 years. — YAHOO

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The James Webb Space Telescope wrapped up a nearly 100-day test inside a  giant, cryogenic testing chamber, where it was subjected to extremely cold temperatures. It will become the largest space telescope ever built and will orbit about 1 million miles away from Earth. With a mirror that is more than six times the size of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the Webb Space Telescope will allow researchers the ability to study atmospheres of planets outside of our solar system and learn more about the first galaxies that formed. It is expected to launch in 2019. But before that launch, the telescope will move from Texas to California for the installation of its sun shield — a step that is expected to be complicated. — THE VERGE

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Australian astronomer Tobias Westmeier has charted mysterious, high-velocity gas clouds. The clouds are moving at different speeds than the Milky Way. The clouds cover up to about 13 percent of the sky. “It’s something that wasn’t really visible in the past, and it could provide new clues about the origin of these clouds and the physical conditions within them,” Westmeier said. While most of the origins of the gas trails are unknown, one is known as the Magellanic Stream "because it seems to be connected to the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds,” Westmeier said. — NEWSWEEK

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A University of Washington research team will receive support from NASA for an idea to launch small satellites with magnetic braking systems. The team's concept was one of nine from the Smallsat Technology Partnerships program to receive backing from NASA. “U.S. universities are great partners for space technology research and development, and this may be especially true with small spacecraft,” said Chris Baker, NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program executive.  “The ability for educational institutions to take technology from the laboratory to orbit with low-cost small spacecraft provides an immense source of innovation and fresh perspective in the development of new space capabilities.” — GEEKWIRE

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Bacteria found living on the International Space Station could be similar to bacteria found living in your home. Swabs were collected from 15 different locations inside the space station for the study. The population of microbes living on the space station originated from the bodies of the astronauts and anything inside the space station from Earth; they are not from space since the orbiting lab is "completely enclosed." Results of the study were published today. — POPULAR SCIENCE

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When you crave pizza, you get pizza — even if you're living in the International Space Station.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli had a craving for pizza, and he casually mentioned it during a live event with his boss. But with the closest pizza joint being back down on Earth, his colleagues stepped in and sent a special delivery so those on board could enjoy a pizza night.

Astronauts can choose their own menus from a list of about 200 food items. Shockingly, though, pizza is not among the options. And, we should especially note, the pizza was sans cheese. But Nespoli didn't seem to mind, calling it "unexpectedly delicious."

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