The big picture

Trump's improbable moonshot

Congress isn't sold on the idea that NASA should or can return to the Moon in four years.

Feb 18, 2020
The make-or-break moment for U.S. spaceflight

2020 is the year for the U.S. to reassert its dominance in human spaceflight.

Jan 7, 2020
Deep Dive: Factory Moon

The sector is an emerging one in the space industry.

Jul 20, 2019
Deep Dive: The new global race to space

Billionaires and political leaders are vying to land on the Moon, colonize Mars or mine asteroids

Updated Jan 1, 2019

All Space stories

Hope during coronavirus: Return to space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It would already be a huge event if Wednesday's SpaceX launch was just the return to launching astronauts on U.S. rockets for the first time in nearly a decade.

But throw in the fact that it will also be the first orbital launch of U.S. astronauts by a private company — and the fact that it's happening in the middle of a pandemic — and you have a seismic historical event. And it just might give Americans something inspiring to talk about at a time when everyone needs it.

NASA head of human spaceflight resigns ahead of crewed SpaceX flight

A view at night of the Earth from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

NASA's head of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, has resigned from his position at the space agency.

Why it matters: Loverro's resignation comes only a week before SpaceX is expected to launch a pair of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, marking the first crewed launch from the U.S. since 2011.

Listening to a star's heartbeat

Artist's illustration of a pulsating Delta Scuti star. Gif: NASA Goddard

Astronomers have found the heartbeat powering a class of pulsating stars in deep space for the first time.

Why it matters: The stellar heartbeats were detected using data from NASA's TESS spacecraft, which is designed to hunt for alien planets circling distant stars. The new discovery shows TESS' versatility and the spacecraft's ability to shed light on more than just far-off worlds.

Hubble Space Telescope catches rare glimpse of comet breaking apart

Photo: NASA/ESA/D. Jewitt (UCLA)/Q. Ye (University of Maryland)

Comets are fickle cosmic beasts. Many are beautifully bright hundreds of millions of miles from the Sun before breaking apart as they get closer to the star.

What's new: The Hubble Space Telescope caught a rare glimpse as Comet ATLAS broke apart at the end of April.

The astronauts bringing spaceflight back to the U.S.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley (front). Photo: SpaceX

Two people — NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken — are about to risk their lives in the name of bringing human spaceflight back to the U.S.

Why it matters: The first crewed SpaceX launch on May 27 is a huge moment for NASA and the U.S. as a whole. When the final test launch takes off, Hurley and Behnken are the ones taking on most of the immediate risk in this historic moment.

Spectators urged to stay home during historic space launch

A crowd on a bridge in Florida watching the final space shuttle launch in 2011. Photo: NASA/Frank Michaux

NASA is trying to keep its people and the public on the ground safe during the historic launch on May 27 to the International Space Station in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Thousands of people have shown up on Florida's beaches up and down the Space Coast to watch crewed launches in the past. For this historic launch — which will mark the first time astronauts take flight from U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011 — NASA would typically expect more.

This photo is a shadow on an asteroid

Photo: JAXA/U. Tokyo/Kochi U./Rikkyo U./Nagoya U./Chiba Inst. Tech./Meiji U./U. Aizu/AIST

Asteroids are thought to be leftovers from the dawn of our solar system, the debris that didn't get incorporated into the planets as they formed billions of years ago.

Driving the news: A new photo taken by the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft shows what the robotic explorer saw as it descended to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu to collect a sample from the ancient object. That little piece of the asteroid is expected to make it back to Earth by December.

Go deeper: NASA picks a sample site for asteroid mission

May 14, 2020 - Science

Brines on Mars may not be habitable

Mars seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI

Seasonal flows of extremely salty water on Mars could be longer-lasting and more frequent than initially thought, though they likely aren't suitable to life as we know it, according to a study in the journal Nature Astronomy this week.

Why it matters: If these brines on the Red Planet are not habitable for microbes as we understand them, then scientists may not need to worry about potentially contaminating these regions during future missions, opening up new avenues of exploration on Mars.

A new way to control satellites

HIVE. Photo: Hypergiant Industries

A new tool for satellite operators could allow one ground controller to keep an eye on dozens of spacecraft at once.

Why it matters: Today, satellite operators are only able to control three to five satellites at a time. With potential mega-constellations of hundreds or thousands of satellites coming online, companies and governments will likely need to find ways to scale up their operations rapidly.

Coronavirus pandemic delays major astronomy projects

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic is pushing back major astronomy projects and threatening to unravel some of the gains made toward increasing diversity among researchers in the field.

Why it matters: Depending on how long the crisis lasts, it could affect our understanding of the cosmos for years to come by delaying scientific efforts that will help find new asteroids and gather data about distant stars and galaxies.

More Space stories