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Artist's illustration of astronauts working on the Moon. Image: NASA

As the coronavirus rages, NASA is making strides toward its ambitious goal to launch astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the next four years.

The big picture: NASA's 2024 Artemis Moon mission is the Trump administration's tentpole civil space policy expected to challenge geopolitical rivals like China for supremacy in space.

  • "It's important that this agency do this now, because our country — and in fact the whole world — has been shaken by this coronavirus pandemic," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a press conference last week. "And yet, we need to give people hope."

What's happening: NASA last week announced it is awarding three companies millions of dollars to continue work to build human lander systems expected to bring people to the Moon's surface.

  • SpaceX, Dynetics and a team put together by Blue Origin will now work to refine their lander ideas over the coming months before NASA funds one or more of the ideas ahead of the 2024 landing.

Yes, but: While certain parts of the Artemis program are moving ahead, other parts of the space agency's plans have been put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak.

  • NASA's building and development of its Space Launch System rocket have been largely paused due to the pandemic, potentially delaying the first flight of the long-delayed heavy-lift rocket the agency intends to use for its moonshot.
  • NASA also recently announced the agency will push off efforts to build its small Gateway space station in orbit around the Moon before the 2024 landing in favor of going directly to the surface for the first landing instead.
  • Members of the House Science Committee have also criticized the fact that the space agency is outsourcing the building of a lunar lander to these companies instead of building a bespoke system in-house, potentially spelling trouble for political support of the program going forward.

Go deeper: Comparing the Artemis and Apollo missions to the Moon

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 11, 2020 - Science

SpaceX and ULA pull in huge defense contracts

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes flight. Photo: SpaceX

The Space Force's announcement last week that United Launch Alliance and SpaceX will launch expensive spy satellites and other military payloads brings a long and often fierce battle for government funds to an end — at least for now.

Why it matters: This type of government money — particularly in light of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic — is key for space companies that often work on thin margins.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. (Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images)

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.