May 31, 2017

NASA's new probe will "finally touch the sun"

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

Next year, NASA will launch an unmanned spacecraft to get within 4 million miles of the sun. NASA announced today that they are renaming the probe, initially the Solar Probe Plus, to the Parker Solar Probe, after Gene Parker whose research 60 years ago revolutionized heliophysics.

Why it matters: Assuming a successful launch, this will be the closest a man-made object has come to the sun.

The Earth sits about 93 million miles away and scientists say that we are too far away to answer three outstanding questions:

  1. Why is the sun's surface (the photosphere) cooler than its atmosphere (the corona)?
  2. How does solar wind gets its speed?
  3. Why does the sun emit solar energetic particles that are dangerous to unprotected space travelers?

The spacecraft: In order to withstand the sun's heat, NASA scientists designed a 4.5 inch think carbon-composite shield, which can survive temperatures of 2,500-degrees Fahrenheit. The ship is also equipped with thermal radiators, which will act as tubes to radiate heat back into open space. The probe will travel at about 430,000 mph. What's next: The probe is undergoing its final thermal testing and integration research, and will be moved by the end of the year to its launching point in Florida. In July 2018, the probe will launch into space, it will loop Venus seven times eventually through surfing closer and closer to the surface.

Go deeper

Hospitals are starting to get their coronavirus cash infusion

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The federal government is sending $64 billion to hospitals, post-acute facilities and other medical providers to help cope with the coronavirus fallout.

Yes, but: Even though more funding is coming, safety net and rural hospitals fear they are getting a raw deal from the way some of the money is being distributed.

Biden, Sanders work toward truce on big issues

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden isn’t about to become Bernie Sanders, but he’s signaling that there’s potential for more common ground on issues such as health care, student debt, climate change and more in the weeks ahead.

What to watch: As Biden courts Sanders' endorsement, their teams will hold policy discussions in the next few weeks with the expectation that Biden will incorporate some elements of Sanders' agenda, a person familiar with those plans tells Axios.

Some Trump aides eye May 1 start to coronavirus reopening

President Trump was flanked at yesterday's briefing by HHS Secretary Alex Azar (far left), Vice President Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump's aides, encouraged by virus data showing fewer deaths than once projected, are working behind the scenes to deliver on his vow to reopen America "sooner rather than later."

What to watch for: A senior White House official said there’s a lot of internal energy pushing for May 1, because that's the end of the White House's "30 Days to Slow the Spread."