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Inside Space (Dec 2nd, 2019)

1. European countries will provide the European Space Agency (ESA) with €12.5 billion ($13.7 billion) in funding for the next three years. That represents a 21 percent increase over the previous three-year budget. Earth observation programs – including the Copernicus environment-observing satellites – will receive more than €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion), well above the €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) requested by ESA. "Climate is a top priority, and Copernicus is addressing the climate question to a large extent," said Josef Aschbacher, director of ESA’s Earth observation program. Under Copernicus, ESA has launched seven Sentinel satellites to monitor the health of our planet. The next Sentinel satellite will be deployed by a SpaceX Falcon 9 in November 2020. EU governments also approved funding for the International Space Station program until 2030 and contributions to NASA's Artemis program, which aims to send a woman and a man to the moon in 2024. – SPACEFLIGHT NOW

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2. ESA's new budget includes funding to support two NASA missions: Mars 2020 and the DART asteroid defense project. ESA will provide a rover to retrieve samples collected by the Mars 2020 rover and an orbiter that would return the samples to Earth. The agency will also send the Hera spacecraft to the asteroid Didymos in 2026 as part of NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. NASA will crash a satellite into a small moon that orbits Didymos in 2022 and Hera will later find out if the orbit of the moon has changed due to the impact. DART could help scientists develop a technique that could eventually be used to deflect an asteroid in a collision course with Earth. – PLANETARY SOCIETY

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3. China's Chang'e 4 mission has started using a radio observatory mounted on the Queqiao lunar orbiter. The Queqiao has been relying on communications from the Yutu 2 lunar rover that landed on the far side of the moon in January. The next phase of its mission includes conducting radio astronomy experiments with the observatory, which is part of a collaboration between the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) and the China National Space Agency (CNSA). Once the observatory's three 5-meter (16.4 feet) long antennas are unfolded to their full length, they will be able to capture signals from the earliest periods of cosmic history – just after the Big Bang. – UNIVERSE TODAY

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4. A meteor seen over Australia in 2016 may have been a "temporary captured object," also known as a minimoon. Most asteroids enter the atmosphere directly after approaching our planet, but a small number of them get captured on Earth's orbit for a while, becoming temporary moons. This is an extremely rare event. A 2012 study based on a supercomputer simulation found that of 10 million virtual asteroids, only 18,000 would get captured on Earth's orbit. Astronomers have identified only two minimoons that have crashed on Earth, in 2007 and 2014. Because of its trajectory – almost vertical – and low velocity, experts think that a space rock observed in Australia in 2016 was also a minimoon. – SCIENCE ALERT

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5. NASA wants to buy a seat in a short-duration commercial mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in the early 2020s. The mission, which will last two to four weeks, will be part of NASA's plan to commercialize low-Earth orbit (LEO) – the other three seats in the spacecraft would be purchased by private companies. Under the plan, which was announced in June, the agency envisions sending "two private astronaut missions" to the station each year. The astronauts will travel on a SpaceX Crew Dragon or a Boeing Starliner, the two vehicles that U.S. companies are currently developing to ferry people to and fro the ISS. – SPACE NEWS

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6. India and Europe launched rockets last week. An Ariane 5 rocket lifted off from French Guiana on Tuesday, transporting a GX5 broadband satellite for Inmarsat and a communications satellite for the Egyptian military. It was the fourth and final launch of an Ariane 5 this year. The following day, an Indian PSLV rocket deployed a remote sensing Cartosat-3 satellite. The Indian Space Research Organization plans to deploy two more Cartosat-3 satellites next year to improve the country's imaging capabilities for civilian and military applications. The PSLV also deployed 12 Dove satellites for Planet Labs. 

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7. An Ikea designer collaborated with the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah. Christina Levenborn created a line of products after staying at MDRS and later helped redesign six bedrooms there, installing furniture including shelving units, a kitchen trolley and lamps. Levenborn said she used "flexible and multifunctional" products to maximize the space of the habitats. The MDRS supports research to develop technology for human space exploration. – FAST COMPANY

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8. Skywatchers have a few events to look forward to in December. In its December skywatching video, NASA highlights pairings of planets and the crescent moon. Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and the crescent Moon formed a lineup on Dec. 1. If you missed that, you will get a chance to see Venus and Saturn moving past each other from Dec. 9 to Dec. 13, with Venus rising higher in the sky each day. Mars will be visible below the crescent moon on Dec. 22 and the following day it will rise above the moon. And if you look toward the southwest sky at dusk on Dec. 28, you will see Venus and the crescent moon lining up in a "dazzling" display, says NASA. The full moon will fall on Dec. 11 and the new moon on Dec. 25. – NASA

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9. If you plan to buy your first telescope, Sky & Telescope has some advice for you. The first thing to bear in mind is that telescopes of under 3 inches (76 mm) in aperture will be "too small to provide a pleasing view of anything more than the Moon and a few bright star clusters." To ensure that your new telescope gets you hooked you also need to choose the right eyepieces and an easy-adjustable mount. "If you want to get into astronomy, make sure you get a hobby starter, not a hobby killer," writes Jerry Oltion. – SKY & TELESCOPE

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10. Image of the Day: This image taken by the NASA Curiosity rover shows the sun rising over Gale Crater on Mars.

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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. 

 

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