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Pence is the chair of the National Space Council. Photo: Joel Kowsky / NASA

"America seemed to have lost its edge in space. Those days are over," Vice President Mike Pence said at the inaugural meeting of the revived National Space Council Thursday. "America will lead in space once again."

Between the lines: It's arguable that the U.S. has fallen behind in the space race. Although the China National Space Agency and the European Space Agency have made progress, NASA is still at the helm of the majority of space explorations.

The space race

What they're saying: "America entered this millennium without a coherent plan ... Rather than lead in space, we too often drift," Pence said, calling on the private sector to partner with the government to explore space. Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX said they need federal regulations lifted to launch back-to-back and keep innovating. Still, "America is out-innovating the rest of the world in space launch," Shotwell said.

Where things stand: The big players in the space race are China, Europe, Russia and the United States. But AP reports that, compared to the Cold War era, "space research now appears to rank low on the Kremlin's priorities."

Go deeper: 60 years after Sputnik, Russian space program faces troubles, via AP.

The moon base

What they're saying: "We will return American astronauts to the moon ... to build the foundation to send Americans to Mars and beyond," Pence said in his opening remarks. He brought back the idea of establishing a base on the Moon, which was floated during the Obama administration. "The Moon will be a stepping stone, a training ground," Pence added.

Where things stand: Building a base on the Moon could be a step forward in getting humans on Mars, as it takes much less fuel to get to Mars from the Moon than from Earth. But the goal seems to shift between administrations — Democrats seem to prioritize going to Mars and Republicans seem to focus on the moon. That back-and-forth could threaten any mission becoming reality, tweeted Emily Lakdawalla, senior editor of The Planetary Society.

Go deeper: What it will take to make it to Mars

National security in space

What they're saying: Space has been weaponized, and "our adversaries [Russia and China] are developing anti-satellite weapons" to interfere with U.S military and commercial capabilities, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. U.S. satellites and navigation systems are vulnerable to hacking by other nations as well as independent actors, said Admiral James Ellis, the former commander of United States Strategic Command.

Where things stand: One technological solution is investing in GPS-independent navigation for military actions, but foreign hacking of commercial GPS can hurt the U.S. economy, which is linked to national security, according to Pamela Melroy, a deputy director at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and former astronaut. "An attack on GPS is an attack on the U.S.," she said. Ellis added that U.S. cooperation with allies on a space national security strategy is "absolutely essential."

Go deeper: Our next World War might be fought in outer space, via New Republic.

Noticeably absent on the agenda: Research in Earth and climate science, which falls under NASA's umbrella.

Go deeper

20 mins ago - Technology

Facebook changes corporate name to Meta

Screen shot of CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company's "Connect" virtual event

CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said the social media giant is renaming its company Meta.

Why it matters: The effort is meant to shift its image from a social media platform to a “metaverse” company that focuses on building virtual work and social communities.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
57 mins ago - Economy & Business

Filings show Sweetgreen isn't profitable, despite claims

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Restaurant chain Sweetgreen on Monday filed to go public, and revealed that it lost money in each year since 2014.

Why it matters: The company lied when it repeatedly told reporters it was profitable.

U.S. border cities again see low violent crime rates

Expand chart
Data: FBI, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Reported violent crime in the United States rose in 2020 for the first time in four years, but violent crime rates in 11 of the largest communities along the U.S.-Mexico border stayed below the national average, an Axios analysis found. 

Why it matters: Year after year, data showing low violent crime rates in majority-Mexican American and Mexican immigrant border communities dispels myths of the U.S.-Mexico border as a region filled with crime and chaos.

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