NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov aboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. Photo: NASA/Twitter

The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday morning with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins aboard, bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Why it matters: Per Axios' Miriam Kramer, this is the last contracted flight on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for NASA, marking the transition to using U.S. launch providers like SpaceX instead.

Of note: The launch comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the first crew on the ISS, on Nov. 2, 2000.

  • The $100 billion ISS has since been continuously occupied by rotating crews of astronauts from the U.S., Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.

What they're saying: It's "incredible that we've had a space station with continuous human presence for 20 years," said Rubins ahead of her second trip to the ISS — which fell on her birthday — per CBS News.

  • "It's one of the most incredible engineering achievements, I think, that humanity has done," she added. "And the fact that we've done it as an international partnership and a collaboration, I think that's absolutely the intangible benefit of all of this."

Flashback: SpaceX launches NASA astronauts to orbit in historic first

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NASA will attempt to snag an asteroid sample today

Bennu as seen by OSIRIS-REx. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA will attempt to grab a sample from an asteroid tonight.

The big picture: Scientists hope the sample from the asteroid Bennu will allow them to learn more about the early days of the solar system and how it has evolved over billions of years.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
10 hours ago - Science

NASA tags an asteroid

A global map of Bennu. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched the surface of an asteroid Tuesday in a bid to collect a sample from the space rock that will one day be returned to Earth.

Why it matters: Scientist are hoping to study a sample from the asteroid, named Bennu, to piece together more about the solar system's evolution. Asteroids are thought to be leftovers from the formation of planets billions of years ago.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election — Republican senators defend Fauci as Trump escalates attacks.
  2. Health: The next wave is gaining steam.
  3. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — University of Michigan students ordered to shelter-in-place.