Photo: SpaceX / Flickr

In the afterglow of SpaceX's successful Falcon Heavy launch on Tuesday, Elon Musk told reporters the reusable rocket could "launch things direct to Pluto and beyond; no stop needed. You don't even need a gravity assist."

Why that matters: Interplanetary spacecraft often rely on the gravitational forces of planets to reach their targets — because that method takes less fuel and a smaller rocket. Cassini was boosted to Saturn by Venus, Earth and Jupiter, for example. If the Falcon Heavy and any successors can provide a direct route to the outer solar system, it would save time (and money) and could therefore mean more missions.

Some potential targets: Right now, scientists have their sights on comets, the Saturn moons Titan and Enceladus, and Jupiter's Europa.

Yes, but: This launch was about demonstrating the rocket could carry a heavy payload (for example, a satellite for national security reconnaissance) to space, coast with it for hours and then restart its engine in order to place the cargo in its final orbit, Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics tells Axios. "That was the main point." A deep space mission, on the other hand, could require a different fuel type or optimizing other parameters.

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Updated 13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 20,177,521 — Total deaths: 738,716 — Total recoveries: 12,400,156Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 5,130,784 — Total deaths: 164,603 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. States: Georgia reports 137 coronavirus deaths, setting new daily record Florida reports another daily record for deaths.
  4. Health care: Trump administration buys 100 million doses of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Business: Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for vaccine.
  6. Sports: Big Ten scraps fall football season.

Voters cast ballots in Minnesota, Georgia, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Vermont

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Primary elections are being held on Tuesday in Minnesota, Georgia, Connecticut, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The big picture: Georgia and Wisconsin both struggled to hold primaries during the coronavirus pandemic, but are doing so again — testing their voting systems ahead of the general election. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is facing a strong challenger as she fights for her political career. In Georgia, a Republican primary runoff pits a QAnon supporter against a hardline conservative.

42 mins ago - Health

Trump administration buys 100 million doses of Moderna's vaccine

A volunteer in Moderna's vaccine clinical trial receives a shot. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. government has agreed to buy 100 million doses of Moderna's experimental coronavirus vaccine for $1.5 billion, or $15 per dose.

Why it matters: The Trump administration, through Operation Warp Speed, has now bought initial batches of vaccines from Moderna, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, Pfizer, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca before knowing whether they are safe and effective. The federal government also appears to own some of the patent rights associated with Moderna's vaccine.