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Photo: NASA

The European Space Agency is stopping science operations on four deep space missions as the coronavirus pandemic continues to intensify.

Why it matters: The shutdown comes as nations have placed tight restrictions on movement while cases of COVID-19 rise. ESA also announced that someone working at the European Space Operations Centre in Germany has tested positive for the virus.

Details: On Tuesday, ESA announced it is planning to temporarily suspend operations of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Mars Express, which both circle the Red Planet.

  • The agency's four-spacecraft Cluster mission orbiting Earth and its Solar Orbiter that launched in February to study the Sun from close range will also go dark.
  • According to ESA, interplanetary missions like these require a large number of people on-site at any given time, so ending science operations temporarily will help limit the number of people at mission control.
  • “These have stable orbits and long mission durations, so turning off their science instruments and placing them into a largely unattended safe configuration for a certain period will have a negligible impact on their overall mission performance," Rolf Densing, ESA’s director of operations, said in the statement.

The big picture: The space industry at large is seeing more effects from the coronavirus crisis.

  • NASA's James Webb Space Telescope — a nearly $10 billion astrophysics mission expected to launch next year — could face delays due to the pandemic after the agency suspended testing of the telescope.
  • Bigelow Aerospace — a company with plans to one day build private space stations — has reportedly laid off its entire workforce in part because of the pandemic.
  • Maxar has also warned that it may not be able to deliver satellites to customers on time due to supply chain issues brought about by the pandemic, according to SpaceNews.

Go deeper: Website allows space fans to experience Apollo 13 in real time

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
36 mins ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.