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Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego

NASA is quietly taking baby steps toward a manned mission to Mars, which President Trump says is now the space agency's highest priority. In a new study funded by the agency, researchers devised a way for future settlers on the Red Planet to make bricks out of the soil without an oven, or even any other ingredients.

What they did: Engineers from the University of California-San Diego molded simulated Martian soil into shape and hit it with a force equivalent to a whack from a 10-lb. hammer. That was sufficient to set the soil, which they think is being bound by iron oxide that gives the dirt its red color. The bricks were stronger than steel-reinforced concrete, they report.

The expert brick-maker's take: "The people who will go to Mars will be incredibly brave. They will be pioneers. And I would be honored to be their brick maker." – Yu Qiao, University of California-San Diego.

Go deeper

Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."