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NASA


— Space

Orbital telescopes detect increased activity from the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way

Three space-based observatories appear to have picked up an unusual increase in activity from the supermassive black hole located at the center of our galaxy. According to the data, the black hole known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), which has a mass of roughly 4 million times our Sun, is throwing out ten times the usual amount of bright X-ray flares.

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— Aircraft

NASA develops app to cut airline flight times and fuel use

Shaving a few minutes off flight times mightn't seem like that big a deal, but with tens of thousands of aircraft jetting across the skies each day, the fuel and carbon emission savings would quickly add up if more direct routes were taken more often. NASA is looking to encourage exactly that with software for air carriers that monitors conditions like weather and flight paths to suggest faster routes. Virgin America and Alaska Airlines have answered the boarding call and will put the system through its paces over the next three years.

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— Space

NASA's Orion spacecraft passes key review

NASA's Orion spacecraft has overcome its latest hurdle on the road to becoming human-rated, with the completion of a technical and programmatic review (TPR). Once finished, Orion will be the first spacecraft designed to allow astronauts to operate beyond Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) since the Apollo program. Eventually, NASA envisions using the capsule as a key component in the planned asteroid redirect mission, and the ongoing endeavor to one day put a man on Mars.

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— Space

New Horizons begins massive "treasure trove" data downlink

When NASA's New Horizons probe made its historic flyby of Pluto on July 14, it gathered a wealth of information about the dwarf planet and its moons, but at a distance from Earth of over 3 billion mi (4.8 billion km), retrieving that data will take a very long time. To speed things up, NASA has begun an intensive download from the unmanned spacecraft that will return tens of gigabits of data over the next 12 months.

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