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Inside Space (Apr 3rd, 2018)

NASA on Tuesday announced plans for a supersonic X-plane. The space agency announced that Lockheed Martin won the $247.5 million contract to build the plane — the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD). In a news conference, officials said the goal of the LBFD is to make supersonic flight over land quieter. If accomplished, that could allow commercial routes to be used for faster-than-sound flights. — GEEKWIRE This story is developing.

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At a distance of 9 billion light-years from Earth, the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the most distant "ordinary" star ever observed. The star — assigned the name MACS J1149 Lensed Star 1, and more commonly referred to as Icarus — was discovered through gravitational lensing. Most stars that far away are difficult to see, but researchers said a rare alignment allowed them to view it. "You can see individual galaxies out there, but this star is at least 100 times farther away than the next individual star we can study, except for supernova explosions," lead study author Patrick Kelly said. — SPACE

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A small satellite designed to remove space junk was among the items on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 cargo shipment. The RemoveDebris satellite is expected to deploy from the International Space Station in May or June. Engineers will test its ability to track and discover space debris. Also on the cargo shipment was a brand new custom, zero-gravity HP printer. It will be the space station's first new printer in 17 years.There also were a number of science experiments on board, including biological tests related to astronaut health. — CBS

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Venus' atmosphere could hold microbial life, a new study suggests. Research published in the science journal Astrobiology suggests some microorganisms are in the planet's low cloud layer appearing as dark splotches. The research doesn't necessarily mean there is life on Venus, but study lead author Sanjay Limaye says researchers at least should look in the clouds for signs of life. Limaye referred to the published paper as a “hypothesis article” as there still is no confirmation that such life forms can exist. — GIZMODO

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NASA last week announced another delay of the James Webb Space Telescope. The pushback means Webb won't replace the Hubble telescope until at least mid-2020 now. It previously had been given a 2019 opening. The delay also means funding for the telescope could be pushed above the $8 billion congressional cap, meaning NASA leaders would have to seek reauthorization. So far, NASA has spent $7.3 billion on the telescope. — CBS

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After China's Tiangong-1 space lab fell to Earth on Sunday, researchers say it won't be the last space object to crash on the planet. The failed space station mostly burned up over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday. Remnants of it fell to the South Pacific Ocean. Researchers tracked the the space lab since Chinese officials lost control of it about two years ago. Other objects have the attention of researchers, who say the space around Earth is polluted with junk. The Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket that launched a remote sensing satellite in April 2012 is among items researchers are watching. It was expected to enter Earth's atmosphere today. — SPACE

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As hundreds on Saturday mourned the death Stephen Hawking, 50 people nearby in Cambridge, England, gathered for a meal donated by his family.

The family "wanted to do something to support people going through a tough time," said Alex Collis, of FoodCycle, which operates community meals.

Hawking — a theoretical physicist and cosmologist — who offered theories on the cosmos and its evolution, died March 14 at 76.

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