Photo: NASA

Former Department of Defense official Douglas Loverro has been named NASA's new head of human spaceflight after a months-long search.

Why it matters: Loverro will help lead NASA's push to the Moon as part of its Artemis program to land astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2024, as directed by the Trump administration.

The state of play: Loverro joins NASA at a time when the agency is pushing to end its reliance on Russian rockets for rides to the International Space Station through contracts with Boeing and SpaceX.

  • The agency is also attempting to make up ground after years of delays in the development of its Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule.

The intrigue: Loverro was picked for the job after his predecessor, William Gerstenmaier, was ousted from the position in July.

  • Gerstenmaier was a well-loved figure in the space agency, and his reassignment came as a surprise to many in the industry.

The big picture: NASA doesn't appear to have the support it needs from key members of Congress in order to get people back to the Moon by 2024.

  • "We cannot afford to fail. Therefore, I believe that it is better to use the original NASA schedule of 2028 in order to have a successful, safe and cost-effective mission for the benefit of the American people and the world," Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) said during a Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing today.
  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said that the agency will need about $20 billion to $30 billion to pull off the Artemis mission by 2024, but NASA has yet to detail exactly how much in funding is needed to make the mission happen.

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U.S. threatens to veto UN peacekeeping in Lebanon over Hezbollah concerns

Peacekeepers with Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty

The Trump administration is threatening to veto a resolution to extend the UN's long-standing peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon if its mandate isn't changed, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: The U.S. is the main funder of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which has an annual budget of $250 million. The veto threat is a tactical move, and part of a broader effort to put pressure on Iran and its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 a.m. ET: 20,388,408 — Total deaths: 743,599— Total recoveries: 12,616,973Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 a.m. ET: 5,150,590 — Total deaths: 164,681 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits — U.S. producer prices rose last month by the most since October 2018.
  4. Public health: America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.

Trump congratulates QAnon conspiracy theorist on GOP runoff win

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday tweeted congratulations to Marjorie Taylor Greene, a vocal QAnon conspiracy theorist who won the Republican nomination in Georgia's deep-red 14th Congressional District runoff.

Why it matters: The president's approval illustrates how the once-fringe conspiracy theory has gained ground within the GOP. Greene is among the at least 11 GOP candidates for Congress who have openly supported or defended the QAnon movement or some of its tenets, per Axios' Jacob Knutson.