May 24, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Thank you to Mary Ann, who wrote to scold me about one of yesterday's items and called me "a young whippersnap."

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1 big thing ... Hope during virus: Return to space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wednesday's SpaceX launch would be huge, even if it were just the return to launching astronauts on U.S. rockets for the first time in nearly a decade.

  • But throw in the fact that it will also be the first orbital launch of U.S. astronauts by a private company — and the fact that it's happening in the middle of a pandemic — and you have a seismic historical event, writes Miriam Kramer, author of the weekly Axios Space newsletter.
  • Launch America is scheduled for 4:33 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The launch to the International Space Station will mark the first crewed rocket launch from U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

  • That nine-year gap is the longest since Alan Shepard's first spaceflight in 1961.

How is that possible in time of virus?

  • By limiting media at Kennedy Space Center, holding virtual press briefings, quarantining NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — and testing them regularly so they don't carry the virus to the space station.

Since 2011, NASA has relied on Russia's Soyuz rockets to launch astronauts to the space station. This launch is expected to be the beginning of the end of that reliance.

  • NASA chose SpaceX and Boeing to build vehicles to fly NASA astronauts to the station in 2014, kicking off the Commercial Crew program.

The big picture: The space program has provided this kind of hope during dark times for Americans before.

  • As the Apollo 8 capsule orbited the Moon in 1968 on Christmas Eve, the astronauts aboard read from the book of Genesis as millions watched back on Earth.
  • The broadcast provided a respite to a tumultuous year that included the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Usually, crowds of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, flock to Florida's Space Coast to try to get a glimpse of a flight as it takes off.

  • This time, however, NASA is asking the public to join online.

NASA says it's working with Tom Cruise to film aboard the Space Station at some point.

  • It's all part of NASA's grand plan to become a buyer of services in low-Earth orbit instead of a provider, allowing the agency to focus on bigger goals like getting humans to Mars.

Share this story.

  • Sign up for Miriam Kramer's weekly newsletter, Axios Space.
2. "An incalculable loss"
Courtesy of The New York Times

The stark front page of today's New York Times, plus three inside pages, consist of two-line obituaries ("Always first on the dance floor. ... Preferred bolo ties and suspenders") for 1,000 of the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died of coronavirus — 1% of the toll:

  • Cornelia Ann Hunt, 87, Virginia Beach, her last words were "thank you" Rita Paas, 88, Comstock Park, Mich., never missed "Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy" or "Lawrence Welk" Lila A. Fenwick, 87, New York City, first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School • Alice Coopersmith Furst, 87, Kentfield, Calif., in the first class of girls admitted to the Bronx High School of Science.
  • Bobby Lee Barber, 84, Buckley, Wash., Seahawks season-ticket holder • Rhoda Hatch, 73, Chicago, first in her family to graduate college • Regina Dix-Parsons, 75, Schenectady, N.Y., stalwart church gospel singer • Lakisha Willis White, 45, Orlando, Fla., was helping to raise some of her dozen grandchildren.
  • Barbara Yazbeck Vethacke, 74, St. Clair Shores, Mich., she was known to many as Babs • June Beverly Hill, 85, Sacramento, no one made creamed potatoes or fried sweet corn the way she did • Kimarlee Nguyen, 33, Everett, Mass., writer who inspired her Brooklyn high school students • Kamal Ahmed, 69, New York City, hotel banquet worker and Bangladeshi leader • Israel Sauz, 22, Broken Arrow, Okla., new father.

A huge team at The Times drew the accounts "from hundreds of obituaries, news articles and paid death notices that have appeared in newspapers and digital media over the past few months."

  • Marc Lacey, national editor, said: "I wanted something that people would look back on in 100 years to understand the toll of what we’re living through."

Explore the digital package.

3. Hong Kong erupts as China cracks down
Photo: Vincent Yu/AP

Above: Riot police detain a protester today in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong.

Below: Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas in the popular shopping district as hundreds marched against China's tough national security proposal.

Photo: Vincent Yu/AP
4. Pictures of America, Memorial Day weekend 2020
Photo/Rick Bowmer/AP

Above: Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah.

Below: Liberty Fest rally in front of the California State Capitol in Sacramento to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order.

Photo: Cuneyt Dil/AP
Photo Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Above: Volunteers took registration information in Annandale, Va., as Fairfax County made COVID-19 testing available for free.

  • Hundreds lined up in cars and on foot by 10 a.m.

Below: J.D. Madrid visits the grave of his father-in-law, Michael McBrien, in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Sheridan, Colo.

  • Both Madrid and his father-in-law served in the U.S. Navy.
Photo: David Zalubowski/AP
5. Data du jour: Some industries begin return

Change in worker hours by industry, March 15 to May 17, according to workforce-management software company Kronos Inc.:

Graphic: AP
6. Fire lights up Bay Area

Photo courtesy Dan Whaley, @dwhly

"A fire early Saturday morning destroyed a fish processing and storage warehouse at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and for a time threatened part of the popular tourist area," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • "But firefighters saved the Jeremiah O’Brien, a World War II Liberty ship. ... Flames licked at the historic vessel but it escaped with only cosmetic damage."
7. Twosome, anyone?
Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the 15th tee during TaylorMade Driving Relief last Sunday at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. Photos: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Golf surges as Americans seek safe escape ...

  • Despite no ball washers, no rakes in sand traps, closed clubhouses, and foam pool noodles for touchless ball retrieval, restless Americans are giving an unexpected jolt to a sport that had been declining in popularity, the WashPost's Jena McGregor writes.

The golf industry hopes that interest in the sport with built-in social distancing could provide a permanent boost for the game.

  • The PGA Tour returns on June 11 (without spectators), at a time with few other live sports on TV.

"[S]ome states are requiring tee time intervals of 15 or 16 minutes upon reopening, rather than every seven to nine minutes," the Post reports.

  • "Some places, such as New Jersey, have limited groups to twosomes except for families isolating together."
8. Inspiration to go: Teen bikes 745 miles carrying disabled dad
Jyoti Kumari and her father at their home in Bihar state, India. Photo: Pinky Baby via AP

Jyoti Kumari, 15, biked 745 miles carrying her disabled father, returning to their village in eastern India to escape starvation in a suburb of New Delhi where they were locked down with no income, AP reports.

  • Her father, unable to walk after an accident, had earned a living by driving an auto rickshaw but was left among millions of newly unemployed.

As the temperature climbed, Kumari pedaled for 10 days, with her father riding on the back of the hot-pink bike.

  • They survived on food and water from strangers.

The Cycling Federation of India, which sends teams to the Olympics, has offered to bring her back to New Delhi for a tryout next month. By train.

Mike Allen

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