Wednesday's science stories

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 24, 2020 - Science

Venus' phosphine puzzle

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Scientists are trying to parse out whether a possible sign of life seen in Venus' clouds is truly there.

Why it matters: The announcement that researchers may have spotted a signal of the gas phosphine in Venus' atmosphere was met with excitement by the public and scientists alike, heralded as a possible sign that microbes could live in the planet's clouds.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 24, 2020 - Science

Chinese mission launches to the Moon

Photo: NASA

China's most ambitious robotic Moon mission launched on a journey to the lunar surface Monday.

Why it matters: The mission — called Chang'e-5 — is expected to collect samples of Moon rocks that will be delivered back to Earth for analysis. If successful, these will be the first Moon samples returned to Earth since 1976.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 24, 2020 - Science

Inside a mission to send private astronauts to the space station

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Gregg Newton/Getty Images

If all goes according to plan, in about a year, former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría will board a SpaceX capsule and command a flight to orbit with three other private astronauts.

The big picture: The mission — flown by the company Axiom Space — will mark a major test of NASA's plans to open up commercial access to the space station in the name of creating a thriving private market in low-Earth orbit.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 24, 2020 - Science

Space is outgrowing its billionaires

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The space industry is outgrowing the billionaires who made it famous.

Why it matters: Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson helped put the space industry on the map, but today, a significant amount of growth seen in the industry is propelled by smaller companies.

WMO: Carbon dioxide levels continue to rise despite coronavirus lockdowns

A protestor wearing a face mask displays a placard reading 'Save The Earth' during the climate crisis protest in Seoul. Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Although a slowdown in industrial activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic has helped cut emissions of many pollutants and greenhouse gases, it has not reduced record levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Monday.

Why it matters: Record levels of greenhouse gases are trapping heat in the atmosphere, increasing temperatures and driving more extreme weather, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification, the WMO said, noting that "carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean for even longer."