Mar 28, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy Thursday. It's Opening Day.

🚗 If you're in D.C. this morning: Come meet Joann Muller, our Detroit-based autonomous vehicles expert, in person at 8 a.m. at an Axios Transforming Transportation conversation, 1011 4th St. NW. RSVP.

1 big thing: NASA's moonshot whiplash

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's new goal of returning astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024 — five years earlier than planned — is a huge gamble with the prestige of the United States, Axios science editor Andrew Freedman writes.

  • Why it matters: If it succeeds, this week could be remembered as the turning point that restored some of the space program's lost glory.
  • But that's a big if, since the rockets and spacecraft are nowhere near ready.
  • If it fails, it would be a huge embarrassment to the nation that did all of this once before and couldn't do it again on deadline.

The last American to set foot on the moon's surface was Eugene Cernan in 1972. That was back when America had a clear purpose in space.

  • Now, we're a country in search of a vision.

In setting the five-year timeline, Vice President Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, gave stark instructions to an agency that strives to be both bold and relatively risk-averse: "[W]e must focus on the mission over the means."

  • One thing he didn't mention: more money.

Reality check: The 2024 deadline would require that NASA, Boeing and other commercial space companies ramp up progress on a host of complex projects.

  • They'd have to build the largest, most powerful rocket NASA has ever made — known as the Space Launch System, or SLS — as well as an orbiting command post called the Lunar Gateway, that would serve as the space-based launch point for lunar landing and deep space missions.
  • They'd need a lander to get the astronauts onto the moon, too.

The technology isn't an issue, experts say.

  • We have the technology to return to the moon easily. We just have to build and test the stuff — without a lot of time or money.
  • The private space economy stands to gain a lot if the project goes forward. (The private space industry is already on track to be more than a trillion-dollar economic sector by 2040, according to Morgan Stanley research)

Money, honey? Earlier this month, the Trump administration sent a new NASA budget to Congress that requests $21.9 billion for the agency. That's a 2% cut for the agency, compared to FY 2019.

2. Why Huawei is America's 5G boogeyman

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese telecom giant Huawei is poised to claim close to half of the 5G market, nudging the technological center of gravity away from western telecom vendors, Axios' Kim Hart, Alison Snyder and Sara Fischer report.

  • Huawei claims nearly a third of the global 4G market, and it may get closer to half the market in a 5G world, said Andrew Entwistle, an analyst with New Street Research in London.
  • That's sounding alarms about China's ability to spy on Americans.

Why it matters: 5G has one global standard that makes networks interoperable regardless of the equipment vendor.

  • The security risk posed by Huawei is debated. But if it ends up dominating 5G networks, authority to set standards for future network technologies — such as 6G, which is already under development — will shift toward China.
  • The U.S. doesn't make its own 5G equipment but is using its military, security and intelligence heft to pressure allies not to use China's technology.

Fears are mounting about the authoritarian regime's access to the explosion of data that will flow across 5G networks.

  • AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said at the Fintech Ideas Festival yesterday that Huawei's "impressive" global market share hurts the companies on which the U.S. relies.
  • "You can't separate national security from competitiveness and innovation," he said.

Be smart: China's lead in building the next-generation network is seen as a sign of a decline of U.S. tech leadership in the mobile internet, and as a symbolic point of no return for Chinese economic supremacy.

3. Stat du jour
James Comey, in his first interview since Mueller submitted his report, spoke to NBC's Lester Holt. (NBC News)

In the Roger Stone case, the government said it had turned over 9 terabytes of discovery — an amount so large that Stone's lawyers said if it were on paper, it would pile as high as the Washington Monument, twice, AP reports.

Mueller's evidence is likely massive:

  • "Mueller's team issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants and interviewed more than 500 witnesses."
  • "That means the special counsel likely compiled thousands, if not millions, of documents and pieces of evidence."
  • "Material collected ranges from a $15,000 ostrich jacket worn by [Paul Manafort] to emails and encrypted text messages to hard drives and laptops."
4. Pic du jour
Grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes are parked in the desert in Victorville, Calif. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Boeing hosted 200 pilots and airline officials from around the world at its Seattle-area plant yesterday to preview software upgrades, the WashPost reports:

  • "Boeing’s shift in tone — CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement this week the company has been 'humbled' — reflects growing pressure on the company’s bottom line as its fleet of jetliners sits idle at airports."
  • At the plant in Renton, Wash., officials "defended the embattled 737 Max as the culmination of 50 years of aircraft development."
5. Trump calls into Hannity for 45 minutes
Courtesy TIME

President Trump called into Sean Hannity's Fox News show last night for 45 minutes, bashing the FBI as "dirty cops," former FBI director James Comey as "a terrible guy," and former CIA director John Brennan as a "sick person." (WashPost)

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, head to head with Hannity at 9 p.m., had an audience of 2.5 million on Monday that was 19% below her Nielsen average this year, AP reports. Viewers slipped to 2.3 million on Tuesday.

  • Hannity saw his audience soar Monday to 4 million, a 32% increase from his average. It fell to 3.57 million on Tuesday.
  • Fox's Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham topped their averages both days, while audiences were down for MSNBC and CNN.
6. Scoop: Jonathan Karl plans "Front Row" book on Trump
Rapper Kanye West hugs a surprised Jonathan Karl in the Oval Office in October. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It was 2013 and Donald Trump was in Iowa, two years before he announced for president. Back then, the idea of Trump as a real candidate seemed far-fetched. But ABC's Jonathan Karl asked him what his slogan would be.

  • Trump replied: "I would say the tagline would be: 'Make America Great Again.' ... Right now, we're a collapsing nation, in so many different ways."
  • Asked one word to describe himself, Trump shot back: "Smart."

Karl has covered Trump since 1994, when The Donald gave the New York Post rookie a tour of Trump Tower.

  • Karl, ABC News' chief White House correspondent, is packing a quarter of a century with Trump into his first book, "Front Row at the Trump Show," to be published by Dutton in 2020.
  • He was on the flatbed truck of photographers that precedes the presidential limousine during the inaugural parade, and has been in the White House's literal front row for all 798 days of President Trump.
  • "Front Row" will tell what it's like to question Trump in availabilities around the world, and will describe the vibe of their West Wing close encounters.
7. Unicorn season
Courtesy Bloomberg Businessweek

"Do the impending IPOs of Uber, Pinterest, Airbnb, and others mean the bull market is ending?" Bloomberg Businessweek's Michael P. Regan asks.

  • "That’s the vibe on Wall Street these days, at least among those prone to occasional bouts of what could generously be called caution — or not-so-generously called paranoia."

"Should these and others make it to the stock exchange, 2019 could prove to be one of the biggest years on record for the amount of money raised in U.S.-listed IPOs."

  • "The total will reach $80 billion this year, double the yearly average since 1999, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicted in November — an estimate that may prove low."
  • "And there's no arguing that peaks in IPOs have occurred near major tops ... and close to the onset of recessions. Both 1999 and 2007 were unusually strong years for IPOs that were swiftly followed by nasty bear markets."
8. 🥑 Avocado toast ...

... is now a paint color (a natural green from Clare, a new online brand), per the N.Y. Times' Steven Kurutz ("Prepare for Walls Slathered With Avocado Toast").

  • Another paint innovation: "Say goodbye to testing paint on your walls, because now the samples are disposable peel-away stickers."
9. ⚾ All 30 MLB teams play today
Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP

Changing baseball ... For a sport that leans so much on familiarity and tradition, things are changing at an unusually rapid pace, AP's Noah Trister writes:

  • "Baseball’s statistical revolution has transformed strategy, and technology offers more ways to measure performance."
  • "You get 10,000-ball models of ... where they’re going to hit it."
  • "Defensive alignments are certainly different, and the pitcher-batter pendulum has swung in the direction of high strikeout totals."

"MLB attendance has dropped for three straight seasons and last year the average fell below 30,000 for the first time since 2003," per AP.

  • "To help engage fans, MLB is providing players with video highlights they can post on their Twitter accounts."

Fun fact: "There's not a single active player left from the 20th century. Not one. Adrian Beltre and Bartolo Colon were the last, the Elias Sports Bureau said." (AP)

10. 1 fun thing

"Love Is Fleeting, But Netflix Passwords Are Forever," The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Krouse writes in an A-hed (subscription):

  • "Streaming music subscriptions, video services and 'friends and family' cellphone plans have created ties that bind long after a breakup or even divorce."
  • "Unlike car insurance and health insurance policies that are typically tied to a shared address or legal union, cellphone plans, Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime accounts aren't."

"Many of these lingering connections are born of convenience — it’s time consuming and in some cases impossible to export viewing or listening preferences to a new account."

  • "Simone Lavin charges her ex-boyfriend, sister and three friends on a shared Spotify bimonthly on ... Venmo."
Mike Allen