All Space stories

Jun 23, 2020 - Science

Pluto's hot start

Pluto as seen by the New Horizons probe. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Pluto's ocean may have been hiding below the dwarf planet's icy shell for billions of years since not long after the world formed.

Why it matters: Understanding how Pluto formed during the early days of the solar system is key to getting a broader picture of how objects like the distant world came to be and why its part of space looks the way it does now.

Jun 23, 2020 - Science

NASA's Perseverance rover is getting ready for Mars

Perseverance's landing site, Jezero Crater on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL

NASA's Perseverance rover — designed to hunt for signs of past life on Mars — is in the final stages of preparation before launching to the Red Planet as early as July 20.

Why it matters: The mission, which dodged possible delays from the coronavirus, marks a step forward for NASA's ambitions to investigate whether Mars was inhabited at some point in the past.

Jun 23, 2020 - Science

The looming threats posed by space junk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The threat posed by space junk is growing — and the window for mitigating it is closing. Experts say the U.S. hasn't done enough to combat the growing problem.

Why it matters: Companies like SpaceX are working to launch hundreds of small satellites to already crowded orbits. Even if just a small percentage of them fail, it could put other satellites in danger, costing companies and governments millions of dollars and making parts of space unusable.

Jun 16, 2020 - Science

Our galaxy may have more than 30 intelligent alien civilizations

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

More than 30 intelligent alien civilizations could exist in the Milky Way, according to a new study in The Astrophysical Journal.

The big picture: Scientists have long tried to estimate how many alien civilizations like our own could be out in the universe.

Jun 16, 2020 - Science
What Matters 2020

Astronomers and physicists fight systemic racism in their own fields

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As society at large confronts how racism has shaped our world, astronomers and physicists say it's long past time for their field to experience its own reckoning.

What's happening: From strikes to reports to calls for action, astronomers and physicists are calling for an end to the systemic racism that has shaped their fields and the sciences at large.

Jun 16, 2020 - Science

NASA's VIPER rover's countdown to the Moon

The Moon's north pole. Photo: NASA/JPL

NASA last week announced that the company Astrobotic will deliver the agency's VIPER rover to the lunar surface, bringing the space agency another step closer to understanding exactly how much water is on the Moon.

Why it matters: Companies and space agencies hope to one day mine the Moon for water that can be turned into rocket fuel that could be used to get spacecraft to other, distant targets like Mars. But how much water is actually there is unknown.

Jun 16, 2020 - Science

NASA astronauts speak out in support of Black Lives Matter movement

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir on a spacewalk. Photo: NASA

Current and former astronauts are speaking out on social media and in interviews in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police violence.

Why it matters: Astronauts are NASA's public face and usually avoid politically charged topics in public, but as the agency's astronauts have more direct means of communication to the public, those lines are beginning to blur.

Jun 12, 2020 - Science

NASA selects new head of human spaceflight after agency shake-ups

The Moon as seen from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

NASA has chosen Kathy Lueders as the next head of human spaceflight for the space agency. She is the first woman to lead human spaceflight at NASA.

Why it matters: Lueders will be key to NASA's plans to land a crew on the surface of the Moon by 2024 as part of the Artemis program.

Jun 9, 2020 - Science

Titan is drifting away

Titan in front of Saturn and its rings. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SScI

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is drifting away from the ringed planet far faster than scientists initially thought.

Why it matters: The discovery could help researchers figure out exactly how old Saturn's system of rings and moons might be.

Jun 9, 2020 - Science

Planet to start selling its satellite images to new customers

Planet's new 50-centimeter imagery. Photo: Planet Labs Inc.

Planet, a company that operates more than 100 small imagery satellites in orbit, is rolling out plans to bring its trove of data to new customers across industry and government.

Why it matters: Satellite operators are now able to beam back huge amounts of data from orbit each day, but that hasn't necessarily translated into big rewards and commercial success.