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The New Shepard booster coming in for a landing. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin launched an uncrewed test on Tuesday of the company's New Shepard space system designed to take paying tourists to the edge of space.

Why it matters: This suborbital New Shepard launch is the first of the year for the Jeff Bezos-owned company.

The state of play: New Shepard took flight at 9:36 a.m. ET Tuesday from Blue Origin's West Texas facility carrying about a dozen experiments for the company's customers.

  • One of those experiments was testing out technology that could one day be used to sample asteroids in deep space.
  • “While current asteroid sample return missions visit single asteroids and collect samples from one or two locations on their surface, a future mission carrying dozens of micro-sampler landers like these could return samples from various locations on numerous asteroids,” Alex Parker, a planetary astronomer involved in the experiment, said in a statement.

Between the lines: Another experiment was a Blue Origin landing sensor the company hopes could be used for future missions to the Moon.

  • The company is leading a team competing to build a human-rated lander for NASA's Artemis program.
  • "Using New Shepard to simulate landing on the Moon is an exciting precursor to what the Artemis program will bring to America," Bob Smith, Blue Origin's CEO, said in a statement.

The big picture: Blue Origin isn't the only company aiming to send customers to suborbital space in the near future. Virgin Galactic is also planning to fly private citizens aboard its spaceplane.

Go deeper: Watch a replay of the launch webcast

Go deeper

Virgin Orbit launches satellites into space

The Virgin Orbit "Cosmic Girl," carrying a LauncherOne rocket under it's wing, takes off for the Launch Demo 2 mission from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, on Sunday/ Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket reached space and successfully deployed 10 payloads for NASA's Launch Services Program on Sunday, Richard Branson's company announced.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Miriam Kramer, Virgin Orbit is one of several private spaceflight companies aiming to capitalize on what they believe is a boom in demand for small spacecraft launches.

2 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

2 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.