Apr 30, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 430 words, a 2-minute read.

  • Situational awareness: Another 3.8 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week, taking the coronavirus crisis total to over 30 million.

🏁Breaking: NASCAR will return on May 17 at Darlington Speedway in Darlington, South Carolina.

1 big thing: Fly me to the moon

Artist's illustration of astronauts on the Moon. Photo: NASA

NASA is moving forward with its plans to send humans back to the surface of the Moon by 2024, Axios' Miriam Kramer reports.

  • Why it matters: “This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
  • Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX will get a combined total of $967 million to develop their lunar landers, the agency announced today.

The big picture: These kinds of government contracts are key for space companies hoping to make it through the economic downturn.

  • Blue Origin's system also brings together Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Labs — powerhouses in the space industry — to develop the key components to take astronauts down to the lunar surface.
  • SpaceX will use Starship — a craft currently in development that the company hopes to one day use to send people to places like Mars — to bring crew and cargo from orbit around the Moon to its surface.
  • Dynetics' design hinges on a structure that can both land on and ascend from the surface of the Moon.

What's next: The companies will now continue to study and develop their plans over the coming months before NASA starts to make decisions about which landing systems will continue on in the process.

  • "We've got all the pieces we need," NASA's head of human spaceflight Doug Loverro said during a press call today.
Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Michael Conroy/AP

Unmasked no more: Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a visit to the General Motors/Ventec ventilator production facility with Gov. Eric Holcomb in Kokomo, Indiana.

2. Catch up quick
  1. World latest: The coming clash over the first coronavirus vaccines
  2. U.S. latest: Gov. Brian Kemp to lift Georgia's shelter-in-place order — Gov. Larry Hogan says Maryland National Guard is protecting coronavirus tests sent from South Korea — NYC subway to end 24-hour service for first time for coronavirus disinfection
  3. Business latest: Restaurants gingerly test how to return amid coronavirus — Big Food is built to outlast smaller competitors — Verizon says network usage is up 1,200% during coronavirus
3. 1 fun thing

Photo: Dominic Udell/Brown-Forman via AP

Tortoise and hare, revised: A turtle walks on part of the area to be used for the Kentucky Turtle Derby in Chicago.

  • Looking for a slower substitute to this weekend's postponed race, the first Kentucky Turtle Derby was hatched.
  • The taped race will air Saturday at 7 p.m. on YouTube.