The Atlantic Daily: Moon Money, Moon Problems

Trump asks for $1.6 billion for NASA to get astronauts back on the moon by 2024. Plus: the rise of long distance, why American breakfast foods are boring, and more

What We’re Following

Could Trump Really Make It to the Moon in 2024?

(Phil Noble / Reuters)

Donald Trump wants astronauts back on the moon by 2024—and he wants Congress to fork over more money. The president announced today that his administration would ask for a $1.6 billion bump in NASA’s budget. Politically, 2024 might seem like an eternity away, but in space-exploration years, it’s right around the corner. This mission, called Artemis—the twin of Apollo in Greek mythology—has started off with a much smaller budget than the Apollo missions. Plus, NASA hasn’t yet tested the giant rocket for the mission, or created the lunar-specific spacesuits. But the funding request faces a wary Congress, and even if it does green-light this new pot of money, hitting the 2024 target might be a borderline quixotic goal.

What’s the Trump administration’s stance toward Vladimir Putin? Call it complicated. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with Putin on Tuesday, has taken a relatively bellicose approach to dealing with the Kremlin, blasting it for undermining sovereignty in Venezuela and interfering in the 2016 election. But Donald Trump himself seems hell-bent on staying buddy-buddy with the Russian leader—playing “good cop” while letting loose attack dogs such as Pompeo to play the role of “bad cop.” That approach, whether it’s intentional or not, could seriously backfire—say, if Putin tries to capitalize on his rapport with Trump by asking him to lift sanctions.

Why is the government paying money to people who claim injury by vaccines? Over the past three decades, the little-known Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out more than $4 billion to Americans. For every type of drug other than vaccines, the manufacturer is legally on the hook for the product it sells—but for vaccines, instead of suing a drug company, people who allege harm file a claim with VICP. That strange setup became law in 1986 to counteract the dwindling incentives for companies to invest in new vaccines. And the vaccines, as a whole, are astonishingly safe: The payments from VICP estimate that just one in 4.5 million doses of vaccines lead to injury or illness.

Evening Reads

The new long-distance relationship

(Alessandra De Cristofaro)

What’s behind the rise (or seeming rise) of the modern, voluntary long-distance relationship? And what makes or breaks one?

Such mundane transmissions were what helped Jess Lam, a 29-year-old dentist in Los Angeles, get through four years of long distance with her boyfriend. She told me that after a typical day at dental school, she’d get home, cook dinner, and then start up an hours-long session of what she calls “background Skype”—keeping a videochat open with her boyfriend while the two of them went about their evenings, interacting occasionally. “We wouldn’t be paying attention to each other all the time, but we could see each other on the screen and say hi, so we always were connected in that way,” she told me.

“Background Skype” is something many long-distance couples do today. In Farman’s eyes, the practice helpfully “allows the banal to come to the surface,” contributing to “a level of intimacy that I don’t think people of previous eras had on the same scale.”

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What is 'breakfast food'

(Matthew Roharik / Getty)

Free yourself from the tyranny of breakfast foods and broaden your horizons, writes Amanda Mull. The narrowness of American breakfast options originates from Europe, where meal norms emerged out of centuries of restrictions from the Catholic Church. Even milquetoast corn flakes have a backstory:

Although historical tellings tend to emphasize that Corn Flakes were designed to steer people away from sexual thoughts, Arndt Anderson says they also served other Adventist aims. “It was tied to the health benefits of having a little grain to get your morning constitutional,” she says. Kellogg was “really interested in getting people to poop.”

Corn Flakes might not have been so pivotal without a few other results of industrialization: the proliferation of advertising, and the rapidly expanding accessibility of refrigeration (for milk) and cheap sweeteners (to make anti-masturbation Corn Flakes marketable to children). The first half of the 20th century is when breakfast’s class elements start to take hold in the U.S., Ray says. Refrigeration was a luxury, and although the ingredients in cereal might be cheap and nutritionally hollow, brand-name versions have always been pricey. “The most expensive part of cereal-making is shoving it down people’s throats by advertising,” he explains.

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Urban Developments

Jeff Bezos space colony

(Blue Origin)

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing urban dwellers around the world. Claire Tran shares today’s top stories:

Last week, Jeff Bezos unveiled his spaceflight company’s vision of what human cities might look like in space. But his ideas already feel stale, writes the architecture professor Fred Scharmen.

Apple opened a new retail store on Saturday in the renovated Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C. By turning over a prominent cultural asset to a private company, CityLab’s Kriston Capps writes, the city is excluding many of its residents.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has announced a planned route for a coast-to-coast bike and walking path from Washington, D.C., to Seattle, though it might be a few decades before the trail is complete. Here’s which states have the biggest gaps to fill.

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