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"The Pillars of Creation." Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA

Four groups of competing astronomers and astrophysicists have teamed up to present a grand vision for NASA as the community grapples with what the agency's science program should prioritize.

Driving the news: Billed the "New Great Observatories," the teams behind the Lynx, LUVOIR, HabEx and Origins missions are advocating that NASA commit to building all four of these expensive, large space telescopes.

  • "These are four astonishing visions that really are this unified vision for a new constellation of great observatories," astrophysicist Grant Tremblay told Axios.

The big picture: The lobbying comes as the astronomy and astrophysics communities work to set priorities for NASA's next 10 years of astronomy in its decadal survey.

  • The document's recommendation about which of these flagship missions should be funded holds major weight in the community.

Details: If all four missions are developed and funded, it could allow NASA the opportunity to have all of them up and running together in the next few decades, giving scientists a chance to peer into the universe as never before.

  • LUVOIR and HabEx are both focused on discovering and characterizing potentially Earth-like planets far from our solar system.
  • Lynx is an X-ray observatory designed to illuminate the light of distant stars, learn more about how black holes evolved and understand the structure of the universe.
  • The Origins Space Telescope is expected to help scientists gather data on how galaxies and planets themselves formed, potentially illuminating the origins of life.

Yes, but: It won't be cheap to make this plan happen. According to the collaboration, it would take about $1 billion in extra annual funding to have three of these missions in space by the mid-2040s.

  • The scientific community has also become somewhat wary of big missions after cost overruns and technical issues have plagued the development of the nearly $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope expected to launch next year, so four of these large missions at a time might be a hard sell.

Go deeper: NASA intern discovers new exoplanet

Editor's note: This story was corrected to show the time frame in which these telescopes could launch to orbit is by the mid-2040s (not within 10 years).

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.