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The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic will likely make the U.S. space industry even more focused on government money and funding —and potentially set back advancements toward commercializing the industry.
Why it matters: For over 10 years, the space industry has been making strides to diversify its base of customers away from just government entities to more commercial customers and industries.
What's happening: Many companies that are focusing on catering to commercial interests are young and rely on venture capital funding and other financing, which has largely dried up in the pandemic.
What to watch: Government funds will help keep much of the space industry open for business, but that could also reorient the industry back toward government work just as the commercialization of space was starting to take hold.
The space industry's industrial base — satellite manufacturers, rocket companies and others who support the industry — may also be in trouble, and that could spell problems for even the most generous of government agencies.
The bottom line: The U.S. government will likely reward contracts and other funds to help support the space industry through the coronavirus, but that financing may set back the commercialization of space.
Artist's illustration of astronauts working on the Moon. Image: NASA
As the coronavirus rages, NASA is making strides toward its ambitious goal to launch astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the next four years.
The big picture: NASA's 2024 Artemis Moon mission is the Trump administration's tentpole civil space policy expected to challenge geopolitical rivals like China for supremacy in space.
What's happening: NASA last week announced it is awarding three companies millions of dollars to continue work to build human lander systems expected to bring people to the Moon's surface.
Yes, but: While certain parts of the Artemis program are moving ahead, other parts of the space agency's plans have been put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Sun looking moody. Photo: NASA/Goddard/SDO
The Sun might be a bit more quiet than other stars of its kind, a feature that potentially makes our planet more friendly to life, according to a new study.
Why it matters: Understanding the Sun in context with other stars being studied today is important to learn more about the history of how our solar system came to be and just how uncommon — or common — life is in the universe.
The intrigue: Bursts of solar plasma and radiation from the Sun can be harmful for astronauts and satellites in space, but if the Sun has always been a more quiet, even-tempered star, it may have helped life to develop on Earth.
What they found: The authors of the new study — published in the journal Science last week — used data from 369 stars with properties like the Sun surveyed by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope between 2009 and 2013.
Yes, but: Just because the Sun is less active than other solar-type stars today doesn't mean that it's always been a quiet, well-behaved star.
Artist's illustration of HD 209458b. Image: NASA/ESA/Alfred Vidal-Madjar
A planet 154 light-years from Earth is having its atmosphere torn away as it orbits its star at a blistering speed.
Details: Named HD 209458b, this planet was the first to be found using the transit method — where a telescope detects faint dips in a star's light as a planet passes between the telescope and its star.
The big picture: HD 209458b is known as a "hot Jupiter," which means that it's a large, gas planet but orbits relatively close to its star.
The glow of Earth's atmosphere at night. Photo: NASA
The thorniest subject at NASA right now (Marina Koren, The Atlantic)
The case of the disappearing exoplanet (Robin George Andrews, New York Times)
Long March 5B launch clears path for Chinese space station project (Andrew Jones, SpaceNews)
Podcast: A future where darkness is a thing of the past (Rose Eveleth, Flash Forward)
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Jupiter's moon Europa — with its icy shell and subsurface ocean — has long sparked the imaginations of scientists and science fiction writers alike.
What's next: Researchers are particularly interested in learning more about Europa because the moon is thought to be one of the best places to hunt for possible life in the solar system.
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