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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
SpaceX's plan to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station at the end of May will happen under the long shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
Why it matters: Instead of a triumphant show of American astronauts launching from American soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011, they will likely take flight amid crowd restrictions and a plea to stay away.
What's happening: SpaceX is planning to launch its first crewed mission to the ISS for NASA on May 27 as part of the space agency's bid to stop buying rides to orbit from Russia.
Yes, but: NASA can restrict access to Kennedy Space Center, but the space agency has no jurisdiction over the surrounding area, making it potentially complicated to limit crowd sizes.
"We're trying to make sure we have access to the International Space Station without drawing the amount of crowds that we usually would for these activities. It's especially important now because we haven't done this since 2011, so the crowds are probably going to be bigger than they have been in a very long time."— Jim Bridenstine
The big picture: NASA needs this launch to go off on time and without problems in order to be sure the agency can maintain a robust presence on the space station.
The bottom line: SpaceX's bid to launch people to orbit for the first time — considered to be the most significant space moment of the year — will be dulled by the ongoing pandemic.
The aurora above Earth. Photo: NASA
A population of asteroids captured from other stars could be lurking in our own solar system, a new study contends.
Why it matters: Interstellar asteroids and comets represent astronomers' best chances of studying an object from another star system at close range, potentially revealing how unique (or average) we are in the process.
Details: So far, scientists have spotted two interstellar objects — Comet 2I/Borisov last year and 'Oumuamua in 2017 — but finding a population of these bits of debris from other stars in our own solar system could be a game-changer for researchers.
But, but, but: The origin of these asteroids may not be interstellar at all.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The FCC last week updated its rules around the mitigation of space junk for the first time since 2004, imposing more limits on companies that wish to send their wares to orbit.
Why it matters: Experts are increasingly worried about the number of satellites launching to orbit and how they could contribute to the creation of space junk.
Details: The new FCC rules are focused on making companies more transparent about their plans to safely de-orbit their spacecraft as they reach the end of their functional lives and how they plan to avoid collisions while in orbit.
Yes, but: While the rules place new limits on these ambitious companies, the FCC held back on imposing strict regulations championed by some advocates, according to SpaceNews.
Venus as seen by the Galileo spacecraft. Photo: NASA/JPL
Earth's sister planet Venus is a world of extremes.
The big picture: The nearby planet is shrouded in a thick atmosphere, but scientists think the world may have once played host to liquid water and could have even been habitable at some point in the past.
The intrigue: Scientists have long advocated that NASA send a new mission to Venus for the first time since the 1990s to solve some long-standing mysteries about why the planet looks the way it does.
What's next: A Soviet spacecraft managed to land on and beam data back from Venus for a couple of hours in 1982, but scientists planning future missions hope to extend that record with new technology.
A comprehensive map of the Moon. Photo: NASA/GSFC/USGS
Starship passes key pressurization test (Jeff Foust, SpaceNews)
Incredible new map of Moon shows its every nook and cranny (Ryan Mandelbaum, Gizmodo)
Trump not interested in flying on Virgin Galactic's space plane (Mike Wall, Space.com)
A birthday message from the Hubble telescope (Scientific American)
The Hubble Space Telescope has changed our way of understanding the universe through the course of its 30 years in orbit.
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