Thanks for reading Axios Space. At 1,254 words, this week's newsletter will take you about 5 minutes to read.
Please send your tips, questions and rocket-themed menorahs to email@example.com, or just reply to this email.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Companies are trying to capitalize on the threat of space junk with new technology to clean it up, but it's not clear who will pay for the service.
Why it matters: Today, thousands of pieces of space junk — ranging from tiny fragments of destroyed satellites to spent rocket bodies and defunct spacecraft — orbit around Earth, threatening operational satellites and astronauts.
Driving the news: The European Space Agency recently signed a contract with ClearSpace to remove a piece of a rocket left in orbit on a mission launching in 2025.
The catch: Experts agree space junk is a major threat to keeping space usable and open for nations and companies around the world, but it's not clear who is or should be responsible for cleaning it up, complicating the business case for these companies.
Yes, but: There are also major technical challenges around building and launching any of these new systems.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
LGBTQPAN* women and gender non-conforming individuals in astronomy and planetary science face harassment in their workplaces, according to a new study in the Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society.
Why it matters: The study is a stark look into the hostile environment many members of the astronomy and planetary science community face at work.
"We have very real issues with harassment and negative language being either heard more or being pushed towards highly underrepresented intersectional groups like women of color and LGBTQPAN women and gender non-conforming people within our society."— study co-author Christina Richey to Axios
What they found: The study found that 21% of LGBTQPAN women and gender non-conforming people surveyed in astronomy and planetary science were physically harassed in their workplaces between 2011 and 2015.
Context: The new study comes on the heels of research in recent years attempting to characterize the hardships women, people of color and other groups face in the sciences.
Why you’ll hear about this again: The influx of studies and high-profile cases revealing prominent astronomers’ histories of harassment has led to broader awareness of these problems in astronomy and science as a whole.
* LGBTQPAN refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, pansexual, asexual, and/or nonbinary.
Boeing's Starliner on top of an Atlas V rocket ahead of launch. Photo: Boeing
On Friday, Boeing will launch its first orbital flight of a vehicle designed to bring astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in 2020.
Why it matters: NASA has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft and rocket to bring its astronauts to the space station and back to Earth since the end of the space shuttle program.
Details: Starliner is expected to take flight at 6:36 am ET Friday atop an Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral.
What to watch: It will be interesting to see which company — Boeing or SpaceX — manages to launch its first crews to space.
The Nightingale sample site on Asteroid Bennu. Photo: NASA/Goddard/UA
Europe postpones launch of satellite that will characterize alien planets (Dennis Overbye, New York Times)
The next big customer experience from Jeff Bezos (Marina Koren, The Atlantic)
NASA to receive $22.6 billion in fiscal year 2020 spending bill (Jeff Foust, Space News)
Satellite uncovers Ohio gas well blowout's massive methane leak (Rebecca Falconer, Axios)
NASA picks a sample site for asteroid mission (Axios)
Photo: NASA/ESA/D. Jewitt (UCLA)
The Hubble Space Telescope spotted an unlikely cosmic duo separated by millions of light-years in mid-November.
What's next: Borisov is now speeding toward its closest approach with Earth next week, when it will fly about 180 million miles from our home planet on Dec. 28 before heading out past Jupiter by mid-2020.
Thanks for spending time with me this week! All I want for Hanukkah is for you to subscribe to Axios Space. See y'all in 2020. ✨