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Inside Space (Mar 13th, 2018)

Robert Lightfoot, the interim chief at NASA, will leave the post at the end of April. Lightfoot, who has served as acting administrator since January 2017, announced his retirement Monday. With each day at the helm, Lightfoot and NASA set a new record for the longest time the space agency has been without a permanent leader. Trump's pick — Rep. James Bridenstein, R-Oklahoma — has been stalled in the Senate. Should Lightfoot not be approved, acting administrator duties would fall to Deputy Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk. — THE ATLANTIC

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A design error caused a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to explode after launch in 2015, a new NASA report says. An industrial grade — rather than aerospace grade — cast part was used by SpaceX "in a critical load path under cryogenic conditions and strenuous flight environments," the report said. Following the incident, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said a strut was believed to be the cause. The company said the strut was expected to handle 10,000 pounds of force, but failed with only one-fifth of that. NASA's report said the company has since resolved the issues. — QUARTZ

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Fear not, a huge geomagnetic storm won't hit Earth on Sunday. A chart posted by the Russian-based Lebedev Institute apparently was misinterpreted as a major event. The levels barely reach a G1 level for a minor storm. “Things are all quiet for space weather, and the sun is essentially spotless," Bob Rutledge, head of NOAA’s Space Weather Forecast Center, said. Geomagnetic storms can cause blackouts. In 1859, a storm apparently shocked telegraph operators, and in 1989 a storm caused a nine-hour power outage in Canada. — NEWSWEEK

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NASA's Twin Study shows that 7 percent of Scott Kelly's genes changed after one year in space. The report studied Scott Kelly in space while also observing his twin brother Mark Kelly on Earth. In the report, NASA said 93 percent of Scott Kelly's genes eventually returned to normal after returning to Earth. Its study says the 7 percent of his genes that did not return to pre-flight levels points "to possible longer-term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia." The information could help researchers understand how flights to Mars may affect the human body. — SPACE

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Tokyo researchers found 15 new exoplanets, including one "super Earth" that could be habitable. The planets are orbiting a red dwarf star known as K2-155. The star is about 200 light-years from Earth. Three so-called "super Earth" planets were discovered, of which one is within the habitable zone. It is estimated to be 1.6 times larger than Earth. — TECH TIMES

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Neil deGrasse Tyson blames the United States education system for the rise of "flat earth" believers. In a new video, the astrophysicist tries to simply explain to fact doubters that the Earth is round. Tyson worked with comedian Chris Nice on the video. "Our system needs to train you not only what to know, but how to think about information, knowledge and evidence," Tyson said. He also blamed the flat-earther increase on living in a "country that protects free speech." — CNET

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