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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Remaking Earth on another planet is likely not possible, and experts say the current talk about it perpetuates a problematic idea that we could one day leave Earth's problems behind.
Driving the news: SpaceX founder Elon Musk yet again waded into the world of terraforming — transforming a planet to make it like our Earth.
“We have a small team engaging the broader scientific community on how best to enable a self-sustaining civilization on Mars, and we welcome the efforts of others who share this goal," a SpaceX spokesperson told Axios via email.
Background: Scientists and science fiction writers alike have been drawn to the idea of finding ways to thicken Mars' atmosphere and make the planet habitable.
But, but, but: The best available data today shows that attempting to terraform the entirety of Mars would be prohibitively expensive and may not work at all.
If somehow those problems could be overcome, terraforming an entire world could take hundreds of years, according to some estimates, and it would likely require hundreds of billions of dollars.
There are also ethical questions about whether humans should endeavor to fundamentally change Mars on such a grand scale.
The bottom line: Musk's focus on terraforming is entertaining for his followers on social media, but some scientists are frustrated that he perpetuates the idea that there is a "Planet B" that we could create for ourselves.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from a SpaceX spokesperson.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching to space. Photo: SpaceX
Satellite internet startup Astranis is planning to launch its first commercial satellite to space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2020, the company announced Monday.
Why it matters: Unlike SpaceX or Amazon — which plan to use many small satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide internet to large swaths of the world — Astranis is focusing its efforts on satellites that can deliver internet to relatively wide areas with one spacecraft at a time to start.
"You can get some service, effectively immediately, to the places that most need it, and really provide a focused beam of bandwidth on those places."— Astranis CEO John Gedmark to Axios
According to Gedmark, the satellite going up next year is expected to reduce internet costs for Alaska’s Pacific Dataport and Microcom customers by up to 3 times, delivering broadband for about $100 per month or less.
Yes, but: Astranis plans to launch its satellites to geostationary orbit — about 22,000 miles above Earth's surface — which could create a delay in response time for customers using the internet service.
Mars seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI
The robots responsible for exploring Mars from the surface and orbit are about to go on holiday.
The big picture: Every 2 years, Mars and Earth reach a point in their orbits known as solar conjunction, when the 2 planets are on opposite sides of the Sun, making communications more difficult.
Details: The Curiosity rover won't drive during the blackout, and the agency's InSight lander will stop moving its robotic arm, NASA said.
Yes, but: The rovers and orbiters won't just be resting on their laurels during conjunction.
The bottom line: Those pretty Mars photos we're used to seeing every few days are going to slow down for a while, but come mid-September, we should all expect to get our weekly fix of red planet images again.
A Russian Progress spacecraft above the Earth, attached to the space station. Photo: NASA
NASA astronaut Anne McClain accused by spouse of crime in space (Mike Baker, New York Times)
Soyuz docks with the International Space Station on 2nd attempt (Jeff Foust, SpaceNews)
How cities are cutting down on light pollution (Karen Lightman, Axios Expert Voices)
India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft scouts the Moon in new photos (Meghan Bartels, Space.com)
Photo: NASA worldview/EOSDIS
The scale of what can be seen from space is reserved for mega-phenomenon and actions — the eyes of hurricanes, the lights of billions of people by night and the fires burning in Brazil.
Why it matters: It's normal for parts of the Amazon to burn this time of year, but the fires this year are particularly destructive according to some estimates. These fires are thought to be caused by a combination of deforestation, drought and farming.
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