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NASA, ESA, NRAO and L. Frattare (STSci)

NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA are moving ahead with building a new orbiting X-ray telescope to find evidence of dark matter, which is believed to make up 80% of all the mass in the universe. Dark matter doesn't emit or absorb light, and is instead detected via X-rays from the decay or annihilation of dark matter particles.

Previous joint missions were ill-fated:

  • Take 1: In 2000, the first version of the telescope was lost in a launch failure.
  • Take 2: X-ray detecting instruments made it into orbit in 2005 but a helium leak caused the primary one to malfunction.
  • Take 3: A month after its launch in February 2016, the $273 million Hitomi telescope lost contact when the control system that stabilized it repeatedly failed, causing the satellite to spin uncontrollably and fly apart.

Why it matters: For years, scientists have been scouring the center of galaxy clusters for proof of dark matter. Several satellites have provided conflicting data about telltale X-ray signals. With resolution 20 times better than that of previous missions, the X-ray Astronomy Recovery Mission (XARM) may finally shed light on one of science's biggest questions.

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.