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Inside Space (Feb 8th, 2018)

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster made it to space, well beyond Mars' orbit. Musk initially said his vehicle would make it to the Asteroid Belt. But newer calculations show the vehicle will make it past Mars' orbit, but not quite to the Asteroid Belt, which begins about 329 million miles from the sun. Musk's Tesla should reach a distance of about 160 miles away from the sun. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard, estimates that the Tesla should come within 4.3 million miles of Mars in October 2020. He predicts the Roadster will get within 28 million miles of Earth in March 2021. — THE VERGE

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Now that SpaceX has launched the world's most powerful rocket, what's next? In the near future, CEO Elon Musk said the new rocket will launch a telecommunications satellite for Saudi Arabia-based firm Arabsat sometime in the first half of the year. The Falcon Heavy rocket also will deliver a payload for the U.S. Air Force at some point this year. "Falcon Heavy opens up a new class of payload. It can launch twice as much payload as any other rocket in the world… It can launch things right to Pluto and beyond, no stop needed," Musk said Tuesday. By the end of 2018, SpaceX also expects to launch astronauts on its Falcon 9 and Dragon. — CNN

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The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs could have caused massive volcano eruptions as well. It was 66 million years ago when a six-mile-wide meteorite crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, causing a worldwide earthquake. New research suggests the shaking of the Earth could have led to massive magma eruptions from underwater volcanoes. These events could have added to the worldwide wildfires, acid rain and cooling — all of which killed about 3/4 of the world's species at the time, including the dinosaurs. — SMITHSONIAN MAG

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A desolate Dhofar desert in the Arabian Peninsula nation of Oman resembles Mars enough that 200 scientists are conducting field tests there through the end of the month. With temperatures that can top 125 degrees Fahrenheit, scientists are working to better understand technology in remote locations. "The deserts of Dhofar have a resemblance to various Mars surface features, such as sedimentary structures dating back to the Paleocene and Eocene, salt domes of the South Oman Salt Basin and ancient river beds. The test site offers a wide range of sand and rocky surfaces combined with a broad variability in inclination," a spokesperson for the Austrian Space Forum said in a statement. Six astronauts are using a 120-square-mile area for tests and are living in the Oman Mars Base — a 2.4-ton inflated lab and living space. — PHYS

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More than 800 million viruses fall from the sky in an 11-square-foot area above 9,000 feet. About 20 years ago, researchers first began finding "genetically similar" viruses across the Earth. Since then, researchers have understood that it's "quite conceivable to have a virus swept up into the atmosphere on one continent and deposited on another," University of British Columbia virologist Curtis Suttle said. Researchers found that viruses travel on the back of sea spray and soil dust, and can travel thousands of miles. Many of the viruses, however, likely are not active. "The deposition rates of viruses are huge, but still we need to determine what type of viruses and their viability to infect their hosts," microbial ecologist Isabel Reche said. Scientists say a concern is the increased amount of particles in the atmosphere, which can be associated with respiratory problems. — NEWSWEEK

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Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla Roadster made its way to space this week.

But this is 2018, and some people don't think it actually happened.

“Space travel is pretty much a hoax," Florida resident Justin Harvey told the Miami Herald, even after seeing Musk's Falcon Heavy zoom off into the sky Tuesday. “When I saw it, I was ready to laugh," he added.

The 30-year-old Flat Earth conspiracy theorist thinks views of the Roadster in space were filmed at a studio. And Harvey isn't the only one despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. (Here's the nearly five-hour SpaceX video dubbed "Live Views of Starman.")

But Dr. Massimiliano Galeazzi, the associate chair of the Department of Physics at the University of Miami, said it's "very simple" to understand that the Earth is round. "Look at the images from the [International] Space Station. They see the Earth, and it’s round. I’m not sure what more they want," he said.

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