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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Comet 67P in deep space. Photo: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam

A newly selected European Space Agency mission expected to launch in 2028 is designed to get up close and personal with a comet.

Why it matters: If all goes according to plan, the new mission — named the Comet Interceptor — will give us an unprecedented look at a pristine comet that has never visited the inner solar system before and hasn’t been altered by the heat of the Sun.

  • “Pristine or dynamically new comets are entirely uncharted and make compelling targets for close-range spacecraft exploration to better understand the diversity and evolution of comets,” Günther Hasinger, ESA’s director of science, said in a statement.

The big picture: Comets like these are thought to be preserved leftovers from the dawn of the solar system and could help unlock how Earth got its water.

Details: Comet Interceptor is designed to lie in wait in space until a pristine comet is spotted as it moves into the heart of the solar system.

  • Once the target is set, the spacecraft — which is comprised of three modules that can separate from one another — will then move to map and study it.

One fun thing: Because of the mission design, it’s also possible that the spacecraft could intercept a visitor from outside the solar system.

  • If scientists spot another interstellar asteroid or comet like Oumuamua — the asteroid from another solar system that shot through ours in 2017 — the spacecraft could target that object instead.

The backdrop: This won’t be ESA’s first mission to a comet. The space agency also studied Comet 67P from close range with its Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander. That comet, however, is far from pristine, having flown toward the Sun many times.

Go deeper

"No-code" miracle for startups

Expand chart
Data: Interactive Advertising Bureau; Table: Axios Visuals

The U.S. has reached a tipping point in its shift from the industrial economy — one that relied on the buildout of hardware — to an information economy that relies on the transfer, storage and implementation of data, according to a new report.

Why it matters: This shift towards a data and information-based economy has allowed more businesses to establish themselves and scale quickly and at a very low cost. As such, the number of jobs created by the commercial internet has more than tripled since 2012.

Amazon's small business shield

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon is touting the success of small sellers on its platform through the pandemic — and warning that antitrust legislation could jeopardize that success and blow up its open-marketplace model.

Why it matters: As online shopping became a lifeline for both businesses and consumers during the pandemic, Amazon reaped big benefits, but also saw its regulatory risk grow.

The new cold war panic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The world has seen a power struggle between nuclear powers before, and has seen those countries inch closer to military conflict. But it's never before seen a cold war between two countries as interconnected — with each other and with the rest of the globe — as the U.S. and China.

Why it matters: Escalating antagonism between the world's two superpowers is likely to hinder global cooperation to fight climate change, divert resources to costly arms and tech races, complicate diplomacy for U.S. allies, and victimize Chinese and American citizens living in each other's countries.

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