NASA’s Juno probe at Jupiter beamed back close-up photos of the planet’s largest moon, Ganymede, for the first time in 2 decades

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The Juno spacecraft (left) flew past Ganymede (right) on Monday.

Grey, heavily cratered, and peering out from the black of space, Ganymede looks a lot like our moon. But the icy rock is more than 400 million miles away – it’s the largest moon in the solar system, and it circles Jupiter.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been rocketing around Jupiter since 2016, but on Monday, it zipped past Ganymede, coming within 645 miles of the moon. No spacecraft had gotten that close in more than two decades – the last approach was NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 2000.

In just 25 minutes, Ganymede went from being a distant point of light from Juno’s vantage point to a looming, round disk, then back to a point of light. It was just enough time for the probe to snap five photos.

NASA released the first two images on Tuesday; they’re the most detailed snapshots ever captured of the gargantuan moon.

“This is the closest any spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation,” Scott Bolton, who leads the Juno spacecraft team, said in NASA’s press release. “We are going to take our time before we draw any scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this celestial wonder – the only moon in our solar system bigger than the planet Mercury.”

Scientists believe that Ganymede may host an ocean of salty water 500 miles beneath its icy shell – which would hold more water than Earth does. It’s also the only moon in the solar system with its own magnetic field, which creates an aurora at its poles. Scientists hope the Juno flyby will help them learn more about both Ganymede’s ice shell and its magnetic field.

The first Juno image, below, captures almost an entire side of the ice-encrusted moon. Each pixel covers about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer).

ganymede jupiter moon juno photo close up
This image of Ganymede was obtained by the JunoCam imager during Juno’s June 7, 2021 flyby of the icy moon.

This image is just from the Juno camera’s green-light filter. In the coming days, NASA expects to receive more images from the spacecraft, including those captured with its red- and blue-light filters. That will allow the agency to create a colorful portrait of Ganymede.

Juno’s black-and-white navigation camera also snapped a photo, below, of Ganymede’s dark side.

ganymede jupiter moon surface up close juno flyby
This image of the dark side of Ganymede was obtained by Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit navigation camera during its June 7, 2021 flyby.

It’s visible thanks to light scattered from Jupiter.

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A ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse will be visible in the sky on Thursday. Here’s how to spot the rare event.

annular solar eclipse
An annular solar eclipse.

  • An annular solar eclipse will form in the sky at 6:53 a.m. ET on Thursday.
  • The phenomenon is marked by a bring circle of light, or ‘ring of fire,’ around the moon’s edge.
  • The sight is partially visible in the northeastern US but best seen from Canada and Russia.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A solar eclipse will be visible in the sky at 6:53 a.m. ET on Thursday, as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun.

During a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks the sun entirely. But Thursday’s spectacle is an annular solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon is too far from Earth – and therefore too small in the sky – to fully cover the sun. That leaves room for a brilliant halo of light, often referred to as a “ring of fire” or annulus, surrounding the moon.

The phenomenon won’t be visible everywhere: Parts of Canada, Greenland, and Russia will have the best views. People in the northeastern US, northern Europe, and northern Asia will be able to see a partial solar eclipse, which will look as if someone has taken a bite out of the sun.

This will be the only annular solar eclipse this year, though it’s the first of two solar eclipses in 2021. The year’s second solar eclipse – a total eclipse – will take place on December 4.

Annular solar eclipses are rare spectacles

A combination of photos depicts a partial annular solar eclipse observed with the use of a solar filter in Siak, Riau province, Indonesia, December 26, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
A partial annular solar eclipse observed with the use of a solar filter.

The glowing “ring of fire” in an annular eclipse is only visible for a short time: anywhere from a fraction of a second to over 12 minutes. Last year’s annular solar eclipse lasted just under 90 seconds.

Depending on your vantage point, you may still be able to see a band of light form along the moon’s edge, then disappear over the span of roughly three hours.

Total solar eclipses usually happen every five to six months, but annular solar eclipses only occur every year or two. That’s because they require a precise set of conditions: To start, the sun, moon, and Earth must all be aligned. The moon must also be close to its apogee, or farthest point from Earth – around 252,700 miles away.

In any solar eclipse, the moon’s shadow carves a path across the Earth. During a total solar eclipse, the darkest part of the moon’s shadow, called the umbra, hits the Earth. But during an annular solar eclipse – when the moon is farther from Earth – our planet instead passes through a part of the moon’s shadow called the antumbra, which isn’t quite as dark.

You’ll need special glasses to stare directly at the eclipse

solar eclipse
Children use special glasses to look into the sky during a partial solar eclipse in Madrid, Spain on March 20, 2015.

It’s dangerous to stare directly at any solar eclipse for the same reasons it’s dangerous to look at the sun: The bright light can damage cells in your retina.

This may ultimately distort your vision, resulting in blind spots or trouble making out shapes. Your eyes can also become watery and sore. Sometimes, these side effects won’t show up for a few hours or even a few days.

So if you want to view Thursday’s solar eclipse in person, NASA recommends wearing a pair of “eclipse glasses” with special solar filters. (The American Astronomical Society has a list of reputable manufacturers.) You can also purchase a pair of welder’s goggles in shade 12 or higher.

Sunglasses aren’t a proper substitute – they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight, according to NASA.

The eclipse will also be livestreamed on Thursday for those looking to watch from home.

After this, the next annular solar eclipse won’t happen until October 14, 2023. In the meantime, the world can look forward to December’s total solar eclipse, plus two partial solar eclipses in 2022.

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SpaceX’s dearMoon mission has pitted two brothers against each other. One of the siblings said he was shocked to learn they were both competing for a seat on the flight.

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Charlie Denison-Pender (left) trying on one of two exact replicas of Neil Armstrong’s space suit next to his brother Max.

  • Two British brothers are competing for a seat on SpaceX’s all-civilian flight round the moon.
  • The pair applied separately, later discovering they’d be competing against each other.
  • “I wasn’t expecting him to want to go to the moon,” said one of the brothers about his sibling.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sometimes competition is healthy – but perhaps less so when you’ve unknowingly pitted yourself against your own sibling to take part in a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

Max and Charlie Denison-Pender are two brothers locked in rivalry for a place on Elon Musk’s first civilian flight round the moon, which is slated for 2023. The trip is poised to last six days: three days to get to the moon and loop round the back of it, and three days to return to Earth.

It was first announced in 2018 that SpaceX planned to launch a private passenger named Yusaku Maezawa around the moon.

Earlier this year, Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, released more details: he would be chartering the flight, now known as the dearMoon project, and was seeking eight people to join him.

He then announced an open competition for people to apply for the tickets. Originally, Maezawa said he would give the seats to artists but is now broadening the search.

The application process is simple and involves filling out a form that asks for basic information like name, email address, and country. It also asks the applicant which of Maezawa’s social media accounts they follow.

Eager to acquire a seat on the flight, both brothers entered the competition – separately.

Amid a few giggles, Charlie told Insider: “I wasn’t expecting him to want to go to the moon and things because I’ve always been the one interested in space. I guess he has too – but unknown to me.”

When asked about their rivalry, Charlie said: “We’re competitive, but in a very friendly way.”

For Charlie, though, entering the competition means more than just traveling on a historic flight round the moon. As a student of aerospace engineering at Brunel University, Charlie has ambitions to transform the future of travel beyond Earth.

“The reason why I’m interested in going on the flight is because one day I hope to start a space airliner,” he said.

He added that space travel, in his view, will mimic the nature of commercial travel in the future. He hopes to be one of the first people to contribute to that development. “Going on this trip would provide me with raw inspiration, adventure, but also a first-hand look into the sort of standards that you need to be meeting for commercial space travel.”

Meanwhile, Max, an artist, has been hard at work on his end-of-year exhibition. His interest in flying to the moon came as a complete shock to Charlie, given his creative background.

When asked how he’d feel if Max won the seat instead of him, Charlie answered: “I’d be secretly quite annoyed but also very happy for him at the same time.”

But such travels are not without risks. Although a SpaceX Starship prototype did finally land successfully this month, there have also been several failed landings. One recent incident involved a rocket exploding upon landing, which sent debris flying in the air.

Then, this month, pieces of a runaway Chinese rocket crashed down on the Indian Ocean. Although it was unmanned, it still highlights the dangers of space travel.

But Charlie seemed unbothered. “Generally, I’m pretty confident in Elon Musk and SpaceX, because he’s been doing groundbreaking things for a long time and throughout the Starship prototypes and the testing, you can see the progress each time,” he said.

He added: “I’ve always been quite adventurous and a bit of a risk-taker so even if there was a risk, I would still do it because I’m passionate about it. So, not too worried about things like that.”

As previously reported by Insider, Maezawa said the mission will include 10 to 12 people in total, including the eight civilians he will select.

The eight crew members will be chosen at the end of June and training will begin shortly thereafter, the website for applications said. Preparation for the mission will last until “lift off,” which is scheduled for the first part of 2023.

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NASA is developing plans to build an enormous, Arecibo-like telescope inside a crater on the moon

lunar crater radio telescope
An illustration of the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope concept.

NASA is paying a team of researchers to develop a plan for a telescope on the far side of the moon.

The Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT), as the concept is called, would be a lot like the Arecibo telescope, which collapsed in December. A huge dish would collect radio waves from the cosmos and amplify them so that scientists could analyze the signals. The difference is that on the moon, such a telescope would be shielded from the cacophony of radio signals that such a device on Earth would hear from all kinds of equipment and satellites.

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An illustration of the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope concept, as seen from high above the moon.

To build the LCRT, rock-climbing robots would suspend a kilometer-wide dish inside a lunar crater. The telescope would be nearly three times wider than Arecibo, and its lunar perch would give it a much better view of the universe.

“With a sufficiently large radio telescope off Earth, we could track the processes that would lead to the formation of the first stars, maybe even find clues to the nature of dark matter,” Joseph Lazio, a NASA radio astronomer working on the LCRT project, said in a press release.

The LCRT plans are too preliminary to be a NASA mission, but the agency announced in early April that it’s giving the team $500,000 to refine its concept of the telescope’s design and craft a plan for building it.

“It’s very challenging, but it’s something that I think is achievable with present-day technology,” Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a NASA engineer who leads the team, told Insider.

‘We really do not know what the universe looks like’

Arecibo discovered the first known planet beyond our solar system, mapped Venus’ surface, and detected a pair of stars that confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

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The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, one of the world’s largest radio telescopes, pictured before its collapse.

However, the telescope was at a disadvantage: Earth’s atmosphere garbles radio waves with a wavelength higher than 10 meters, so it blocked Arecibo’s view of the earliest stages of the universe. Building a telescope on the moon, far from atmospheric interference, would allow astronomers to finally see what they’ve been missing.

“This is at the stage when the first stars were being formed in the universe, or even before that, when the first matter was formed but the stars hadn’t been formed yet,” Bandyopadhyay said.

Studying the early universe could help scientists understand the origins of dark matter, which outweighs visible matter six to one.

“Above-10-meter wavelengths, we really do not know what the universe looks like,” Bandyopadhyay said. “We don’t know what we’re going to discover in those wavelengths.”

The lunar telescope isn’t a NASA mission, but the agency wants to know more

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An artist’s rendering of the Space Launch System, NASA’s next moon rocket, lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Bandyopadhyay’s project is one of six that recently won similar sums from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, which awards funding to help researchers flesh out futuristic ideas like this. These “phase II” grants allow researchers to continue studying their early-stage concepts over the next two years.

In addition to the LCRT, NASA’s list of concepts includes fungus-based space habitats and a swarm of kite-like spacecraft that would explore Venus’ clouds.

“All projects are still in the early stages of development, with most requiring a decade or more of technology maturation. They are not considered official NASA missions,” NASA said in a statement.

Like the other projects, Bandyopadhyay’s team previously got a $125,000 NASA grant to investigate the telescope project’s feasibility.

He’s hopeful that the agency will one day take the LCRT on as an official mission.

No humans required: Robots could build the telescope

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A DuAxel rover participates in field tests in the Mojave Desert.

The LCRT team has already picked out a few craters on the moon’s far side that would be big enough for the telescope dish, each about 3 to 5 kilometers (2 to 3 miles) wide. Now they have to figure out how to get the wire-mesh structure into one of those craters.

One potential plan is to land two enormous landers on the edge of the chosen crater – one carrying the mesh and the other carrying 20 crater-climbing DuAxel rovers. The rovers from that second lander would lay out a series of guiding wires on which the first lander would roll out the telescope’s mesh net.

Bandyopadhyay’s team estimates that DuAxel bots could get the job done autonomously in just 10 days, well before the sun would set on that side of the moon for its 15-day night.

the moon surface
The moon as viewed by NASA’s Mariner 10 probe in 1973.

A second option is to use harpoons to deploy the mesh, though that would take about five months, and the robotic equipment would have to survive long lunar nights. The plus side, however, is that Bandyopadhyay estimates this method would be several billion dollars cheaper.

In their first phase of research, Bandyopadhyay’s team picked out a few moon craters that could host their telescope and plotted out the ideas for climbing robots and harpoons. They also laid out the LCRT’s scientific objective: gathering signals from the “Dark Ages” of the early universe and filtering out the cosmic radio noise of our Milky Way.

Now, with their new NASA funding, the group must pick the right materials for the science they want to do.

“In the current phase, our most challenging thing is actually designing a mesh that satisfies multiple different constraints,” Bandyopadhyay said. Those constraints include making a mesh base that would be lightweight enough to launch aboard a rocket. The mesh would also have to be flexible enough to be deployed on the moon yet durable enough to survive dramatic temperature changes there.

lunar crater radio telescope view from inside moon crater
An illustration of the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope, as seen from inside the crater.

The team will also do more research into ways to build this telescope, conduct risk analyses, and lay out a work plan.

Bandyopadhyay hopes his team will come out of this next phase of research with a cost estimate and a solid pitch for a future NASA mission.

“If this mission does get funded through the next stages, I would be very surprised if LCRT was successfully deployed on the moon before I retire. And I’m a very young scientist,” Bandyopadhyay said. “Usually things in space of this magnitude really take time. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to the journey, and this will be a journey of a lifetime.”

This post has been updated. It was originally published on April 16, 2021.

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Former Senator Bill Nelson is officially NASA’s new administrator. His goals: support climate research and put astronauts on the moon.

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Former Senator Bill Nelson appears before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, April 21, 2021, in Washington DC.

NASA has a new leader, but he does not plan to shake things up.

Instead, Bill Nelson is keeping his eyes on the same prizes as his predecessor, Jim Bridenstine: sending astronauts to the moon and Mars.

Nelson, a three-term US Senator from Florida who flew into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, was sworn in as the new NASA Administrator on Monday.

His plan is mainly to keep the ball rolling. During confirmation hearings, Nelson told Congress that he wants to see NASA achieve its most ambitious goal – sending astronauts to the lunar surface and, eventually, to Mars. He also advocated a renewed focus on climate-change research, which has historically been a big part of NASA’s directive but was deprioritized under the Trump administration.

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Former Senator Bill Nelson is sworn in as NASA Administrator, as his wife, Grace Nelson, holds their family Bible, and his daughter, Nan Ellen Nelson watches, May 3, 2021.

“The space program needs constancy of purpose,” Nelson said in a written testimony to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. For continuity, he added, he plans to work with Bridenstine and “seek his advice.”

That consistency may give NASA a break from the whiplash it often gets with new administrations. President George W. Bush first asked NASA to pursue a return to the moon in 2005. Five years later, President Barack Obama shifted the focus to Mars. The Trump administration shifted back to the moon, with a tight deadline: to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. That’s four years earlier than NASA was previously planning.

“If you ask me what is my vision for the future of NASA, it is to continue for us to explore the heavens with humans and with machines,” Nelson told the Senate committee, of which he was previously a member, during a confirmation hearing on April 21. “There is a lot of excitement.”

Sending astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars

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An illustration of SpaceX’s Starship as a lander carrying NASA astronauts to the moon.

NASA still hopes to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 – a feat nobody has accomplished since 1972. Nelson is on board, even though the timeline may be too ambitious. NASA’s Office of the Inspector General recently determined a 2024 landing is “highly unlikely.”

“I think you may be pleased that we’re gonna see that timetable try to be adhered to, but recognize that, with some sobering reality, that space is hard,” Nelson told the Senate committee.

NASA’s plan is to launch an astronaut crew inside an Orion spaceship, using the mega-rocket the agency is currently developing, called the Space Launch System. Once in lunar orbit, Orion would rendezvous with a lander. Two of the astronauts would move into that vehicle then land on the moon’s surface.

NASA recently awarded the contract for that lander to SpaceX. Elon Musk’s rocket company intends to convert its planned Starship mega-spaceship into a lunar lander. But NASA was expected to pick two contractors instead of one, so the decision prompted SpaceX’s competitors – Dynetics and Blue Origin – to file complaints. While things are being sorted out, NASA asked SpaceX to pause work on the project.

NASA cited a lack of funding from Congress when it decided to award one single contract, and promised there would be a follow-on competition. Nelson stood by that statement, vowing that there will be competitions for contracts to send the first astronauts to Mars.

“Competition is always better than sole sourcing, because you can get the efficiencies and you get a lower price,” he told the Senate committee.

NASA aims to launch its first Mars-bound astronaut mission in the 2030s.

‘You can’t mitigate climate change unless you can measure it’

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Clouds over the Amazon rainforest, as seen from space, January 30, 2015.

During his hearing, Nelson defended a White House request to budget $2.3 billion for NASA’s Earth-science programs. That would constitute a roughly 15% increase from the agency’s 2020 Earth-science budget.

“It’s a very important increase. You can’t mitigate climate change unless you can measure it, and that’s NASA’s expertise,” Nelson said. “Understanding our planet gives us the means to better protect it.”

Nelson vocally opposed the Trump administration’s decision to cancel NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System – a $10-million-per-year program that gathers data on how carbon moves around the planet. Congress subsequently reinstated the program.

“When I flew on the space shuttle, any time that was not scheduled with experiments or flight activities – which was not often – I would make my way to the spacecraft window to look at our home, our planet,” Nelson wrote in his testimony. “I was struck by how fragile it looked with its thin atmosphere. Combating climate change cannot succeed without robust observations, data, and research.”

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NASA’s former Mars leader says the agency is ‘keeping their eye’ on a crewed mission to the Red Planet

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A photo of Mars taken by the United Arab Emirates Space Agency.

  • NASA said its return to the moon would be a step toward a crewed Mars mission.
  • “It’s something I hoped I would see,” said Scott Hubbard, a former Mars program leader.
  • NASA last week flew a helicopter and produced oxygen on Mars, good signals for future missions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When NASA announced its partnership with SpaceX to return to the moon by 2024, Scott Hubbard, who formerly led the agency’s Mars program, was hoping there would be some news about future crewed trips to the Red Planet.

He wasn’t disappointed. The press release from NASA mentioned Mars a few times, positioning the trip to the moon as an important step toward an eventual Mars mission.

“It’s something I hoped I would see,” Hubbard, who is also a SpaceX advisor, said in a phone interview on Thursday. “So that it’s clear … that they’re keeping their eye on the Mars goal and working toward it in this interim fashion.”

NASA’s announcement about the moon mission came amid a flood of news about Mars, where the agency landed its Perseverance rover earlier this year.

On Monday, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made history with the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. The same helicopter later converted carbon dioxide into oxygen for the first time. Both events were seen as small steps toward a crewed trip to the Red Planet.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has often said he wanted to get people to Mars as soon as possible. He expected to have 1 million people on Mars by 2050, he said last year.

This year, he said he was confident the first crewed mission would happen in 2026 but some experts expressed skepticism. At a press briefing on Friday, Musk said the first trip could be in “a couple years.”

Moving quickly in space exploration brings with it a great risk. Musk seemed to acknowledge this, saying at another event this week that “a bunch of people will probably die” as crews venture toward the Red Planet. This would be similar to any prior danger associated with exploration, he added.

NASA is taking incremental steps, said Hubbard. First, the agency’s going to learn to live and work on the moon. Setting up a permanent base on the moon will be a learning experience, which will help when crews eventually land on Mars.

It takes about three days to get to the moon but about seven months to get to the Red Planet. Hubbard said he was enthusiastic about Mars, but also wanted astronauts to be able to return to Earth.

“There’s been talk about one-way trips,” Hubbard said with a laugh. “I’m not a fan of that, but some people are.”

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A SpaceX advisor and other industry figures explain why the company’s NASA partnership signals a new space age as they prepare for the Artemis mission

starship moon human landing system
Illustration of SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry NASA astronauts to the Moon’s surface during the Artemis mission.

  • NASA and SpaceX plan to return to the moon as soon as 2024.
  • The agency will give up some control but also save money, said Scott Hubbard, a SpaceX advisor.
  • “There is no backup plan in place should SpaceX fail,” said another former NASA engineer.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the early days of space exploration, NASA’s deals with private vendors were well known – maybe even notorious – for the level of detailed instruction they included.

“That relationship was one where the master control belonged to the NASA people, the civil servants, the engineers, and the smattering of scientists, who would, in some cases, dictate to the contractor down to the thread size of a screw,” said Scott Hubbard, chair of the SpaceX Safety Advisory Panel and Stanford University professor, who spent 20 years at NASA.

He added: “So it really was not much of a partnership.”

But times have changed. As NASA prepares to return to the moon with SpaceX, industry insiders say the balance of both the cost and risk has shifted toward the private space-flight company.

The Artemis mission to return to the moon is the biggest signal yet that public space exploration has entered a new age, one where private companies are pushing boundaries and spending billions.

In the simplest terms, the Artemis contract is more hands-off than the contracts NASA used to sign. It essentially gives SpaceX a finish line, and it’s mostly up to the Elon Musk-helmed company to figure out the best way to get there, Hubbard said.

The announcement of the $2.89 billion contract drew attention from around the world, in part because NASA chose a single partner. SpaceX was chosen over defense contractor Dynetics and a team that included Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. NASA had said it would choose two of three possible contractors but in the end chose only one.

“When you’re running a big program like that – and I have been in that situation in my 20 years with NASA – if you can afford it, you really always want to select two vendors, two companies, because it provides some built-in competition,” Hubbard said in a phone interview from California.

SpaceX has “strong track record” of delivering on NASA contracts, said Marco Rubin, a NASA engineer in the 1980s, who is now senior investment director at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology.

But, he added: “Awarding this partnership to one company makes me a bit nervous. There is no backup plan in place should SpaceX fail.”

NASA said the decision was mostly based on cost. After President Donald Trump pushed for the agency to return to the moon, NASA requested about $35 billion in support. The agency said in an additional congressional funding request that “strong commercial partnerships” would play a big role in the moon mission.

“To achieve our goals, we will not go forward alone,” the agency wrote.

base camp
Artist’s concept of the Artemis Base Camp.

The amount spent on Apollo missions in the 1960s would be at least $150 billion in today’s dollars, Hubbard said. The Apollo program stretched into the early 1970s, and its total cost would likely be closer to the equivalent of $300 billion today.

That sum makes the $2.9 billion contract awarded to SpaceX seem tiny but SpaceX is expected to put a significant amount of money toward the mission. The company didn’t respond to an interview request for this article.

But it’s difficult to compare the cost of the Apollo and Artemis programs, for a few reasons, say some industry observers and insiders.

First, there are all the technological breakthroughs that have happened since the Apollo missions, Hubbard said. Private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin have internalized the lessons learned from early NASA designs, so they may not have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.

Second, it’s difficult to compare contracts under the new partnership with the old contracts, when NASA owned everything that was made, said Scott Shackelford, who teaches business law and ethics at Indiana University.

“What’s different this time around is it extent to which NASA is leasing space, rather than purchasing these vehicles and platforms outright,” Shackelford told Insider via email.

He added: “This move has the potential to make the cost of the Artemis Program much more sustainable than Apollo, though NASA’s decision to preference SpaceX does mean that all of our eggs are indeed in a single basket.”

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SpaceX’s NASA contract has sparked reaction from industry figures seeking details. Blue Origin says it is ‘looking to learn more about the selection.’

starship moon human landing system
Illustration of SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry NASA astronauts to the Moon’s surface during the Artemis mission.

  • SpaceX on Friday was awarded an exclusive $2.9 billion contract to help NASA return to the moon.
  • NASA and SpaceX negotiated a contract, excluding Blue Origin based on its high first bid.
  • “We are looking to learn more about the selection,” a Blue Origin spokesperson told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Many figures in the space and science communities are seeking more details about how NASA chose only SpaceX for its return to the moon, when the agency’s stated plans called for two commercial partners.

SpaceX had been competing against Blue Origin and Dynetics for a pair of contracts for NASA’s Artemis program. But NASA on Friday announced SpaceX would get an exclusive $2.9 billion contract.

Blue Origin had partnered with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper to form “The National Team.”

A Blue Origin spokesperson told Insider via email on Saturday: “The National Team doesn’t have very much information yet. We are looking to learn more about the selection.”

Elsewhere, celebrations were in order.

“NASA Rules!!” Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, said. “We are honored to be part of the @NASAArtemis team.”

NASA last year chose the three companies to develop a new “human landing system,” or HLS in NASA’s shorthand. The agency has plans to return to the moon as soon as 2024 and eventually set up a permanent base there.

Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, dubbed its moon lander Blue Moon. Dynetics, a defense contractor, named its design the Dynetics Human Landing System.

The winning HLS, SpaceX’s Starship, uses the company’s Raptor engines, along with designs from its Falcon 9 and Dragon vehicles, NASA said. It’ll be fully reusable, with a landing system designed “for travel to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations.”

“By taking a collaborative approach in working with industry while leveraging NASA’s proven technical expertise and capabilities, we will return American astronauts to the Moon’s surface once again, this time to explore new areas for longer periods of time,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA’s HLS program manager, in a statement.

NASA had been expected to choose two of the companies. But budget concerns led to its choice of SpaceX, which restructured its proposal to meet NASA’s spending expectations, according to the agency.

NASA on April 2 chose SpaceX as a “conditional selection,” which allowed the agency to enter post-selection negotiations with it, according to a document prepared by Kathryn Lueders, Source Selection Authority.

Lueders wrote that each of the three companies’ “Option A” proposals were above the agency’s proposed budget for the HLS program.

Lueders added: “It was therefore my determination that NASA should, as a first step, open price negotiations with the Option A offeror that is both very highly rated from a technical and management perspective and that also had, by a wide margin, the lowest initially-proposed price – SpaceX.”

Musk’s company then resubmitted its proposal on April 7, according to NASA.

“Although SpaceX’s revised proposal contained updated milestone payment phasing that fits within NASA’s current budget, SpaceX did not propose an overall price reduction,” Lueders wrote.

After the announcement, SpaceX employees and space enthusiasts flooded Linkedin and Twitter with positive messages. Many posted rocket emojis, as might be expected.

But other space enthusiasts and budget hawks questioned NASA’s decision to drop down to one commercial partner for such a monumental mission.

Casey Dreier, chief advocate and senior space policy advisor at The Planetary Society, said via Twitter that he was “honestly shocked” that NASA would choose a single commercial partner. Multiple partners would boost competition, he said.

“Of course, SpaceX always acts as if it’s a constant competition with itself. And it’s 100% delivered on its capability and price promise so far,” Dreier said.

Rep. Robert Aderholt, of Alabama, released a statement saying NASA’s decision “raised a lot of questions.”

SpaceX had previously entered into agreements with NASA and the US Air Force, with “very high” price tags, he said.

He added: “The years of delay in the development of the Falcon Heavy, as well as recent tests of the Starship program as reported in the news, also raise technical and scheduling questions.”

Several of SpaceX’s Starship prototypes have exploded during test flights.

Dynetics didn’t return a request for comment on Saturday.

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Dogecoin extends record-shattering weekly gain to 520% after another inscrutable tweet from Elon Musk

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  • Dogecoin spiked roughly 200% to another record on Friday after an inscrutable Elon Musk tweet appeared to reference it.
  • The coin has now climbed 520% over the past week, according to Coinbase data.
  • Experts warn of a bubble waiting to burst caused by “just a surge in interest from people looking to get rich quick.”
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell

Dogecoin spiked more than 200% on Friday to a record high after Elon Musk tweeted another inscrutable message that appeared to reference the meme currency.

At 12:33 a.m. ET on Friday, the Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder published a tweet to his 51 million followers saying “Doge Barking at the Moon.” Attached was a photo of a creature that resembles a dog staring at an object that resembles a moon.

The caption of the billionaire executive is a version of the “to the moon” slang dogecoin bulls use in reference to the astronomical rise in dogecoin’s price.

Dogecoin hit a 24-hour high of $0.43 around 9:45 a.m. ET and was trading at $0.38 as of 10:35 a.m. ET, according to data from Coinbase.

For the week, the price of the token portrayed by a Shiba Inu dog has skyrocketed 520%.

“The Dogecoin rally once again defies all expectations,” Konstantin Boyko-Romanovsky, CEO and founder of Allnodes, a non-custodial service provider, told Insider. “It feels like a black swan event on the crypto market because of how unpredictable it is. A market correction should follow this type of sudden gain.”

Some experts have expressed concern about a bubble waiting to burst. Freetrade analyst David Kimberley said the latest uptick is not indicative of any “meaningful value the cryptocurrency offers” but rather “just a surge in interest from people looking to get rich quick.”

“When everyone is doing this, the bubble eventually has to burst and you’re going to be left short-changed if you don’t get out in time. And it’s almost impossible to say when that’s going to happen,” he said. “And if you’re the one left holding on to the coins when the market tanks, you may regret taking a punt in the first place.”

Read more: A 29-year-old self-made billionaire breaks down how he achieved daily returns of 10% on million-dollar crypto trades, and shares how to find the best opportunities

The jump in dogecoin’s price isn’t only prompted by the newly self-appointed Technoking of Tesla, though he has spurred the price to skyrocket in the past. In February, Musk published a one-word tweet that sent dogecoin up by 25% in minutes.

Rather, dogecoin was also lifted by a broader cryptocurrency rally ahead of Coinbase’s direct listing on the Nasdaq on Wednesday viewed by many as a milestone for the digital currency ecosystem.

The token spiked as much as 34% on Tuesday, bringing its total market capitalization above $11 billion – making it more valuable than a number of large companies – in lockstep with bitcoin hitting a new record that day, as well as ether.

“There are many different reasons that people are buying it, and it’s more or less gone mainstream at this point,” said Billy Markus, an IBM engineer and a cocreator of Dogecoin, told Insider. “It’s one of the most volatile assets you can make a bet on, but people right now have a lot of reasons to make that bet, and that is being reflected in the market.”

Dogecoin, which started as a joke in 2013 created by Markus and Jackson Palmer, has shot to fame thanks to well-known backers such as Musk, but also rapper Snoop Dogg and Kiss member Gene Simmons. Both intended dogecoin to be a fast and cheaper alternative to bitcoin.

It also has a strong community on Reddit that started in 2013 with members cheering each other on whenever the price rallies. Satoshi Street Bets also on Reddit started in 2020-a take on the famed Wall Street Bets-also discusses dogecoin although it includes the broader cryptocurrency market.

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An astronomer’s animation shows how Earth and the moon both orbit a spot 3,000 miles from the true center of the planet

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The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) captured a view of the moon as it passed between the spacecraft and Earth.

The moon orbits Earth – right? The answer is actually a little more complicated than that.

The moon is circling a point about 3,000 miles from our planet’s center, just below its surface. Earth is wobbling around that point, too, making its own circles.

That spot is the Earth-moon system’s center of mass, known as the barycenter. It’s the point of an object (or system of them) at which it can be balanced perfectly, with the mass distributed evenly on all sides.

The Earth-moon barycenter doesn’t line up exactly with our planet’s center. Instead, it’s “always just below Earth’s surface,” as James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency (JAXA), explained on Twitter.

It’s hard to imagine what that looks like without seeing it for yourself. So O’Donoghue made an animation to demonstrate what’s going on. It shows how Earth and the moon will move over the next three years.

The distance between Earth and the moon is not to scale in the animation, but O’Donoghue used NASA data, so the positions over time are accurate.

“You can pause the animation on the present date to figure out where the Earth and moon physically are right now,” O’Donoghue said.

Every planetary system – including the star or planet that appears to be at the center – orbits an invisible point like this one. Our solar system’s barycenter is sometimes inside the sun, sometimes outside of it. Barycenters can help astronomers find hidden planets circling other stars: A star’s wobbling motion allows scientists to calculate mass they can’t see in a given system.

O’Donoghue made a similar animation of Pluto and its moon, Charon. In this system, the barycenter is always outside of Pluto.

That’s because Charon’s mass is not that much smaller than Pluto’s, so the system’s mass is more evenly distributed than Earth and our moon.

Because the barycenter is outside of Pluto, O’Donoghue said, you could actually consider this to be a “double (dwarf-)planet system” rather than a dwarf planet and its moon.

In his free time, O’Donoghue has also made animations to explain why leap years are necessary, why you’ve probably never seen a model of the solar system to scale, and how incredibly slow the speed of light is.

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