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Inside Space (Aug 22nd, 2019)

1. A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium rocket sent a U.S. Air Force GPS satellite into space on Thursday. After 29 launches over nearly two decades, it was the last flight for this variant of the Delta IV. From now on, ULA will only use the Delta IV Heavy, which consists of three single-stick cores strapped together. The Vulcan, which is scheduled to make two commercial flights in 2021, will eventually replace the Heavy, which only has five missions left. The satellite launched on Thursday will be part of a constellation that provides positioning and timing services for military and civilian users. Spaceflight has put out some amazing images of the launch. – SPACE

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2. Sierra Nevada Corporation gave reporters a sneak preview of its proposed space habitat. The full-scale prototype was built under a NASA program that gave Sierra Nevada, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Bigelow Aerospace funding to develop habitats that could be used for a space station orbiting the moon or long-duration space travel. Sierra Nevada's prototype is made with multi-layered fabric material that can be compressed for launch and expands once in space. With a diameter of eight meters and an internal volume of 300 cubic meters, the habitat is about one-third the size of the International Space Station. Ars Technica space editor Eric Berger said that the three-story structure feels spacious and offers a crew of four astronauts "the opportunity to spread out but also gathering spaces for food, movies, and more." – ARS TECHNICA

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3. Throwback Thursday: Time flies. Can you believe that it has already been two years since the skies of North America were grazed with a total solar eclipse? I don't know about you, but it feels like it has only been a few weeks since I wore those dorky eclipse glasses

The Great American Solar Eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, brought us together, like a big family sitting around a dining table. Only that instead of placing our hungry eyes in front of a roasted turkey, millions of us were looking at the sun and the moon playing peekaboo.

According to a survey led by researchers at the University of Michigan, about 88 percent of American adults viewed the eclipse either directly or digitally. That means that 216 million people witnessed the event. 

"I think this will be recorded as, to date, the most-viewed eclipse in history," said Lou Mayo, a NASA planetary scientist.

The 2017 solar eclipse was the first in nearly a century to cross the entire contiguous United States, the good news is that we won't have to wait that long for the next one. It will happen on April 8, 2024

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4. Reuters spent some time with the three astronauts that will take part in the first Starliner crewed mission. The news agency visited former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where they are training. The trio has been taking simulated spacewalks underwater, practicing docking maneuvers on a flight simulator and doing exercises to respond to emergencies aboard the International Space Station. The development of the Starliner is part of the Commercial Crew Program, under which NASA is teaming up with Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in U.S.-made spacecraft instead of Soyuz rockets. "It’s going to be huge for the younger generation to see us launching from American soil, that we’re bringing work and industry back to the United States," Mann said. Both the Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon were expected to fly astronauts into space for the first time this year, but the test flies have been pushed back several times. – REUTERS

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5. Researchers have determined the temperature of Uranus' rings. According to a new study, thermal images reveal that the rings are 320 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, 10 degrees warmer than the planet's surface. The finding was the result of happenstance. Researchers were using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array and the Very Large Telescope in Chile to study the temperature of Uranus' atmosphere when the telescopes made thermal readings of the planet's rings. "I was just trying to image the planet as best I could and I saw the rings. It was amazing," said Edward Molter, a graduate student at University of California Berkeley and the study's lead author. – BUSINESS INSIDER

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6. A month after Bill Gerstenmaier was ousted as head of NASA's human spaceflight division a search for a replacement is still on. On Wednesday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the search will likely take a while. "At this point, we have not even begun to narrow the field," he said. "We’re going to start narrowing it down in the coming weeks, and we’ll be ready to announce a name, I would imagine, in the not-too-distant future," he explained. And yet, Bridenstine said that "very few people on the planet" are qualified for the job. Bridenstine previously said that some decisions related to NASA's human spaceflight program would have to wait until a replacement for Gerstenmaier is found. The interim head of the division is Ken Bowersox, a former astronaut. – SPACE NEWS

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7. ESA is seeking proposals for missions to explore lunar caves. Researchers believe that the "skylights" that have been spotted on the surface of the moon could be the entrance to underground tunnels that were once filled with lava. NASA and ESA believe that these lava tubes could potentially accommodate human outposts. "They would shield astronauts from cosmic radiation and micrometeorites and possibly provide access to icy water and other resources trapped underground," said Franceso Sauro, Director of ESA’s PANGAEA planetary geology astronaut training. ESA has asked space companies to send in ideas for missions to "land on the lunar surface, identify and access a cave and contribute to the scientific exploration of the moon." – ESA

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8. NASA and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) have developed a supercomputer to run simulations for the Artemis program. The device will allow researchers to run thousands of simulations simultaneously to ensure that spacecraft can land safely on the moon. The supercomputer has been named Aitken in honor of Robert Grant Aitken, an American astronomer specializing in binary star systems. It is located at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The facility will rely on evaporative methods to cool the supercomputer, replacing the need for a cooling tower and millions of gallons of water, HPE said. – TECHCRUNCH

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9. Astronomers may have detected gravitational waves emitted by a black hole that devoured a neutron star. The ripples were detected by the LIGO and Virgo observatories in the U.S. and Europe, respectively. If confirmed, this will be the first detection of a black hole and a neutron star colliding. The cataclysmic event happened about 8,550 million trillion kilometers away from Earth. – CBC

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10. Image of the Day: India's Chandrayaan-2 has sent home its first picture of the moon. "Take a look at the first Moon image captured by #Chandrayaan2 #VikramLander taken at a height of about 2650 km from Lunar surface on August 21, 2019," tweeted the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The lander and the rover are scheduled to land on the moon on September 7. 

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Written and curated by Eduardo Garcia in New York. Eduardo is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School M.A. Science program and writes regularly for the New York Times Climate Fwd: newsletter. In one of his previous lives, Eduardo worked as a Reuters correspondent in Latin America for nearly a decade. 

Editor:  David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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