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What $27.2 billion buys NASA — and more space stories you may have missed this week

A Japanese rocket self-destructs, Russia pre-empts Tom Cruise’s dream of stunts in space, and a special bonus round of coverage from our partners.

Welcome to This Week in Outer Space, where you’ll find a roundup of the best space coverage from Yahoo News and our partners from the past week or so. Last week, we did a deep dive into the remarkably complex problem of measuring time on the moon. This week, we’ve got the NASA equivalent of Apple releasing the new iPhone, a real bummer for fans of Tom Cruise and an unfortunate series of events for Japan’s space program.

When it comes to space launches, results may vary

On Tuesday, Japan’s space program hit a major road bump. While the JAXA H3 rocket made it off the launch pad, a booster rocket failed to ignite, and the ground crew was forced to initiate a self-destruct sequence. Luckily, no one was hurt, although the H3 was carrying a $1.47 billion satellite, which does not work anymore. It’s been a long, hard road for the H3. Its first attempted launch in February also failed — albeit less spectacularly. Here’s hoping the third time’s the charm.

Meanwhile, over in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Relativity Space — a private aerospace company nipping at the heels of Blue Origin and SpaceX — prepared to launch the first-ever 3D-printed spacecraft. However, concerns over fuel temperature forced a delay. The next attempt is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Rounding out this week’s launch schedule, on Thursday, China deployed two new satellites, and SpaceX acted as an interstellar courier for OneWeb — a space-based communications company that is in some ways a competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink internet service.

Going back to the moon is not going to be cheap

At the same time President Biden was unveiling his $6.8 trillion budget proposal for 2024, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson previewed how NASA intends to spend its modest $27.2 billion slice of the pie.

During his annual “State of NASA” address, Nelson went big on the moon, reminding everyone that, yes, we are going back. Sometime next year, three astronauts will travel to and circle the moon — and if that goes well, the next mission will actually land. But before they get there, NASA and private partners intend to send a whole bunch of equipment, so that once the first woman and next man step foot on the moon, everything is ready for them to get to work.

A little farther out, on the red planet, NASA’s upcoming Mars Sample Return Mission will not only study Martian soil but send it back to Earth for further analysis.

Turning back to Earth, Nelson detailed how a new generation of satellites will revolutionize how we monitor and protect our planet as a system. The data will all feed into the “Earth Information Center,” which Nelson compared to a “mission control but for climate and earth science.”

The NASA chief also previewed what’s next for planetary defense against asteroids, showed off research that could make air travel greener and a heck of a lot faster, and highlighted NASA’s commitment to inspiring the next generation of astronauts.

All in all, some really cool stuff. If you’ve got 13 minutes to spare, you can watch the whole presentation here:

Tom Cruise, if you’re reading this, you may want to sit down

Back in October, the head of Universal Pictures made waves by hinting that an upcoming film led by none other than Tom Cruise could literally be heading to outer space. Now, at the time, it seemed a little outlandish, but given Cruise’s career of going to increasingly extreme lengths to pull off elaborate stunts, going to space didn’t seem like too much of a giant leap.

But, unfortunately, it appears someone already beat him to it. On Wednesday, a trailer for “The Challenge,” which was produced by Channel 1 Russia in partnership with Roscosmos and partially filmed aboard the International Space Station, was released. The story is said to follow a surgeon who’s taken aboard the ISS to perform an emergency procedure on an injured cosmonaut. No word on if “The Challenge” will see an official release in the United States, although Tom Cruise likely still hopes to one-up that production by becoming the first civilian to do a spacewalk outside the ISS. And you know what? I think there’s a pretty good chance he’ll actually try to do it.

Bonus round! Even more space news from our partners

Have plans for Valentine's Day in 2046? Might want to pump the breaks on those. USA Today’s Jordan Mendoza has the details about an asteroid with a slightly higher-than-zero chance of hitting the Earth in 23 years.

For all the exo-planet lovers out there, The Conversation has the skinny on two potentially habitable planets orbiting a star only 100 light-years away.

A potential supermassive black hole leaves a trail of stars as it's flung from a galaxy.
A potential supermassive black hole (bottom left arrow) leaves a trail of stars (middle arrow) as it's flung from a galaxy (top arrow). (NASA/ESA/Pieter van Dokkum et al./Astrophysical Journal Letters)

Business Insider has new details on the “rogue” black hole spotted floating through space earlier this year — apparently, it may have a trail of baby stars behind it.

And finally, if you’re looking for something weird, you’ve come to the right place. Gizmodo’s George Dvorsky takes a look back at “7 Space Concepts That Were Too Wild for NASA.”