US Regulator Approves Over-the-Counter Sales of Narcan
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved selling the leading version of naloxone without a prescription, setting the overdose-reversing drug on course to become the first opioid treatment drug to be sold over the counter.
It’s a move that some advocates have long sought as a way to improve access to a life-saving drug, though the exact impact will not be clear immediately.
Here’s a look at the issues involved.
What is Narcan?
The approved nasal spray from Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions is the best-known form of naloxone.
It can reverse overdoses of opioids, including street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl and prescription versions including oxycodone.
Making naloxone available more widely is seen as a key strategy to control the nationwide overdose crisis, which has been linked to more than 100,000 U.S. deaths a year. The majority of those deaths are tied to opioids, primarily potent synthetic versions such as fentanyl, which can take multiple doses of naloxone to reverse.
The drug has been distributed to police and other first responders nationwide.
Advocates believe it’s important to get naloxone to the people most likely to be around overdoses, including drug users and their relatives.
The decision “represents a decisive, practical and humane approach to help people and flatten the curve of overdose deaths,” said Chuck Ingoglia of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing in a statement.
What does the FDA approval mean?
Narcan will become available over the counter by late summer, the company said.
Other brands of naloxone and injectable forms will not yet be available over the counter, but they could be soon.
Several manufacturers of generic naloxone, which is made similarly to Narcan, will now be required to file applications to switch their drugs to over the counter as part of an FDA requirement.
The nonprofit Harm Reduction Therapeutics Inc., which has funding from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, already has an application before the FDA to distribute its version of spray naloxone without a prescription.
How is naloxone distributed now?
Even before the FDA’s action, pharmacies could sell naloxone without a prescription because officials in every state have allowed it.
But not every pharmacy carries it. And buyers have to pay for the medication — either with an insurance co-pay or for the full retail price. The cost varies, but two doses of Narcan often go for around $50.
The drug is also distributed by community organizations that serve people who use drugs, though it’s not easily accessible to everyone who needs it.
Emergent has not announced its price, and it’s not clear yet whether insurers will continue to cover it as a prescription drug if it’s available over the counter.
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf in a statement encouraged Emergent to make the drug available “at an affordable price.”
Does making naloxone over the counter improve access?
It clears the way for Narcan to be made available in places without pharmacies — convenience stores, supermarkets and online retailers, for instance.
Jose Benitez, the lead executive officer at Prevention Point Philadelphia, an organization that tries to reduce risk for drug users through services including handing out free naloxone, said it could greatly help people who don’t seek services — or who live in places where they are not available.
Now, he said, some people are concerned about getting naloxone at pharmacies because their insurers will know they are getting it.
“Putting it out on the shelves is going to allow people just to pick it up, not have stigma attached to it,” he said.
But it remains to be seen how many stores will carry it and what the prices will be. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, which now covers prescription naloxone for people on the government insurance programs, says that coverage of over-the-counter naloxone would depend on the insurance program. CMS has not given any official guidance.
Maya Doe-Simkins, a co-director of Remedy Alliance/For The People, which launched last year to provide low-cost — and sometimes free — naloxone to community organizations, said her group will continue to distribute injectable naloxone.
How will people learn to use Narcan?
Emergent had to conduct a study examining whether untrained people could follow directions for using Narcan.
Last month, an FDA expert panel voted to make the drug available over the counter, despite the numerous errors in using the device reported in the company study. The FDA suggested Emergent make several changes to how the directions will be displayed on the packaging and said the device could be safely used “without the supervision” of a health care worker.
Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University addiction expert, said one benefit of currently having pharmacists involved in dispensing the drug is that they can show buyers how to use it. One key thing people need to remember: Always call an ambulance for the person who has received the naloxone.
He also said there are fears that if the drug isn’t profitable as an over-the-counter option, the drugmaker could stop producing it.
Scientists Say Israel-Sudan Coral Reef Project Stymied
A joint project between Sudanese and Israeli scientists to study the unique resilience of Red Sea coral reefs has stalled due to red tape [bureaucratic delays], according to those involved. The project has been hailed not only for protecting coral reefs but also for normalizing Israel-Sudan relations. Henry Wilkins reports from Port Sudan, Sudan.
What Are State’s Obligations to Protect Citizens from Climate Change? World Court to Weigh In
The U.N. General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution Wednesday that will ask the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on the obligations of states under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations from the impact of climate change.
“This resolution and the advisory opinion it seeks will have a powerful and positive impact on how we address climate change and ultimately protect the present and future generations,” said Vanuatu Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau, whose government spearheaded the drafting and negotiations of the resolution, with a core group of 18 countries representing most corners of the world.
“Together we will send a loud and clear message, not only around the world but far into the future: On this very day, the peoples of the United Nations, acting through their governments, decided to leave aside differences and work together to tackle the defining challenge of our times: climate change,” Kalsakau said.
More than 130 countries joined in co-sponsoring the resolution, which was adopted by consensus. While most of the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases, including China and the United States, were noticeably absent from the co-sponsors, they did not prevent the adoption by consensus.
The United States, which noted the Biden administration’s ambitious climate action to meet commitments consistent with keeping global warming to within the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, said it has “serious concerns” that an ICJ opinion could hurt rather than help collective efforts to reach climate targets.
“We believe that launching a judicial process, especially given the broad scope of the questions, will likely accentuate disagreements and not be conducive to advancing our ongoing diplomatic and other processes,” U.S. delegate Nicholas Hill told the assembly. “In light of this, the United States disagrees that this initiative is the best approach for achieving our shared goals and takes this opportunity to reaffirm our view that diplomatic efforts are the best means by which to address the climate crisis.”
Japan and Germany are among the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, and they joined as co-sponsors. Germany was also among the 18 countries that shepherded the initiative.
“Germany hopes that this initiative will contribute to further strengthen international cooperation, which is key for achieving the Paris Agreement’s objectives,” Ambassador Antje Leendertse said of the 2015 climate accord.
The Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu’s very existence is threatened by rising sea levels. It is currently recovering from the devastation earlier this month of two Category 4 tropical cyclones in less than five days.
Kalsakau was clear that the effort is not intended to be a contentious one, nor is it a lawsuit. The authors also do not expect the Hague-based court to create new obligations on states, only to uphold existing ones. While the ICJ is the United Nation’s principal judicial organ, its decisions are not binding but carry considerable weight and can become part of what’s known as customary law.
“We believe the clarity it will bring can greatly benefit our efforts to address the climate crisis and could further bolster global and multilateral cooperation and state conduct in addressing climate change,” the prime minister said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the action, warning time is running out for nations to act boldly to fight global warming.
“This is the critical decade for climate action,” he told the assembly. “It must happen on our watch.”
The resolution began in 2019 as the brainchild of students from Vanuatu, which is among several small island states that are suffering the effects of the climate crisis but has contributed little to causing it.
“I don’t want to show a picture to my child one day of my island. I want my child to be able to experience the same environment, the same culture I grew up in,” Cynthia Houniuhi, president of Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, told reporters in a briefing ahead of the vote.
Human Rights Watch welcomed the resolution, saying it is a powerful demonstration of effective multilateral diplomacy led by a state from the Global South on behalf of people at risk.
“The overwhelming support for Vanuatu’s resolution is a major step toward gaining clarity on the legal obligations of states most responsible for climate change,” said HRW’s Environment and Human Rights director Richard Pearshouse. “It’s also important to focus — through the lens of human rights — on the obligations to protect those communities suffering most acutely.”
French Laboratory Boat Fights Plastic Pollution in Senegal
The French ship the Plastic Odyssey is on a world tour to show how billions of tons of plastic waste is affecting the ocean. Allison Fernandes has this story from the Port of Dakar in Senegal. Salem Solomon narrates.
Biden Says GOP Policies Would Surrender Tech Economy to China
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Republicans’ ideas for cutting the budget could undermine U.S. manufacturing and help China dominate the world economy.
Speaking at a semiconductor maker in North Carolina to highlight his own policies, Biden is trying to shape public sentiment as he faces off with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., about raising the federal government’s legal borrowing capacity.
McCarthy sent a letter to Biden on Tuesday saying that talks should start about possible spending cuts in return for the debt limit increase.
Biden has said Republicans need to put forth their own budget plan before negotiations start. Without an agreement, the federal government could default on its financial obligations.
The president tried to ratchet up pressure on Tuesday by saying that the GOP demands on the budget would only empower China, the country’s key geopolitical rival.
Being tough on China has been a core part of the identity of former President Donald Trump, who is seeking to return to the White House in 2024, and his Make America Great Again movement. The Democratic president said Republican objections to his policies would instead strengthen China.
“It would mean ceding the future of innovation and technology to China,” Biden told the crowd. “I’ve got news for you and for MAGA Republicans in Congress: not on my watch. We’re not going to let them undo all the progress we made.”
Biden’s trip to Wolfspeed follows the Durham-based company announcing plans last September to build a $5 billion manufacturing facility in Chatham County that is expected to create 1,800 new jobs. The company is the world’s leading producer of silicon carbide chips. Biden had won passage last July of a $280 billion legislative package known as the CHIPS Act, which was intended to boost the U.S. semiconductor industry and scientific research.
It’s nothing new for the Biden administration to highlight the CHIPS Act, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, the $1 trillion infrastructure legislation and a roughly $375 billion climate bill — major legislation that the Democratic administration steered into law before Democrats lost control of the House.
But now, just weeks after Biden unveiled his own budget — it includes $2.6 trillion in new spending — his administration is looking for chances to lean into its battle with Republicans over spending priorities and who has the better ideas to steward the U.S. economy in the years to come.
Republicans have rejected Biden’s budget but have yet to unveil their own counteroffer to the Democrats’ blueprint, which is built around tax increases on the wealthy and a vision statement of sorts for Biden’s yet-to-be-declared campaign for reelection in 2024.
His trip is part of a larger effort to draw attention to his policies, which have been overshadowed by high inflation.
Besides Biden’s visit to Wolfspeed, Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden and other senior administration officials will fan out to 20 states over the next three weeks to highlight the impact of Biden’s economic agenda, according to the White House.
Biden has said he intends to run for a second term but has yet to formally launch his reelection campaign.
His effort to highlight legislative victories could also give him an opportunity to present voters with images of an administration focused on governing as Trump braces for a possible indictment over alleged hush money payments made during his 2016 campaign.
Trump narrowly won North Carolina in 2020. Among the other states that Biden and administration officials will be visiting in the weeks ahead are Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin — crucial battlegrounds that Biden won in 2020 and states expected to be competitive again in 2024.
US Renewable Electricity Surpassed Coal in 2022
Electricity generated from renewables surpassed coal in the United States for the first time in 2022, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced Monday.
Renewables also surpassed nuclear generation in 2022, after first doing so last year.
Growth in wind and solar significantly drove the increase in renewable energy and contributed 14% of the electricity produced domestically in 2022. Hydropower contributed 6%, and biomass and geothermal sources generated less than 1%.
“I’m happy to see we’ve crossed that threshold, but that is only a step in what has to be a very rapid and much cheaper journey,” said Stephen Porder, a professor of ecology and assistant provost for sustainability at Brown University.
California produced 26% of the national utility-scale solar electricity followed by Texas with 16% and North Carolina with 8%.
The most wind generation occurred in Texas, which accounted for 26% of the U.S. total followed by Iowa (10%) and Oklahoma (9%).
“This booming growth is driven largely by economics,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy. “Over the past decade, the levelized cost of wind energy declined by 70%, while the levelized cost of solar power has declined by an even more impressive 90%.
“Renewable energy is now the most affordable source of new electricity in much of the country,” he added.
The Energy Information Administration projected that the wind share of the U.S. electricity generation mix will increase from 11% to 12% from 2022 to 2023 and that solar will grow from 4% to 5% during the period. The natural gas share is expected to remain at 39% from 2022 to 2023, and coal is projected to decline from 20% last year to 17% this year.
“Wind and solar are going to be the backbone of the growth in renewables, but whether or not they can provide 100% of the U.S. electricity without backup is something that engineers are debating,” said Porder, of Brown University.
Many decisions lie ahead, he said, as the proportion of renewables that supply the energy grid increases.
This presents challenges for engineers and policymakers, Porder said, because existing energy grids were built to deliver power from a consistent source. Renewables such as solar and wind generate power intermittently. So battery storage, long-distance transmission and other steps will be needed to help address these challenges, he said.
The EIA report found the country remains heavily reliant on the burning of climate-changing fossil fuels. Coal-fired generation was 20% of the electric sector in 2022, a decline from 23% in 2021. Natural gas was the largest source of electricity in the U.S. in 2022, generating 39% last year compared to 37% in 2021.
“When you look at the data, natural gas has been a major driver for lowering greenhouse gas emissions from electricity because it’s been largely replacing coal-fired power plants,” said Melissa Lott, director of research for the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
“Moving forward, you can’t have emissions continuing to go up, you need to bring them down quickly,” she added.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) influenced the amount of renewable energy projects that went online in 2022, Lott said, and it’s expected to have a “tremendous” impact on accelerating clean energy projects.
Ford Battery Plant Using Chinese Tech Raises Alarms in Congress
Ford Motor Company’s plan to create batteries for the rapidly expanding electric vehicle (EV) market could encounter congressional speed bumps because of the carmaker’s plan to use technology created by a Chinese company with ties to the communist government.
Ford executive chairman William Clay Ford Jr. announced in February that the company would spend $3.5 billion to build a new battery plant in Michigan and employ U.S. workers to promote U.S. “independence” in the EV market.
“Right now, many [U.S.] automakers import most of their batteries from abroad,” Ford said at that time. “This is a slow process that makes us vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.”
He added that the U.S.-produced batteries would “charge faster” and be “more affordable” and “incredibly durable.”
But the news did not sit well with some lawmakers, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who opposed President Joe Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which included tax credits to encourage domestic EV production.
Earlier this month, Rubio introduced legislation blocking tax credits for producing EV batteries using Chinese technology and called on the Biden administration to review Ford’s partnership with the company, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL).
“Nine billion to help people buy tax credits,” Rubio said. “By the way, with a Chinese battery in it. … I imagine we’ll spend a bunch more money to buy solar panels which are also made in China.”
In a Skype interview last week with VOA, China expert Jonathan Ward said “the White House has already called for a supply chain review that would cover essentially next generation batteries, critical minerals and rare earths, pharma and other biotechs.”
“We’re in the midst of this competition for supply chain security and industrial capacity where relying on our primary geopolitical adversary is really untenable in the long run,” he said.
Ward has authored two books outlining China’s economic, military and political goals. He said decades of outsourcing technology and manufacturing has left the United States with little choice but to work with Chinese companies like CATL to advance domestic EV development.
“Essentially 60% of the battery market is made up of Chinese corporations,” he said. “CATL, the battery maker in question here, is already 34% of global market share. The other companies are Japanese and South Korean, but they are smaller than the aggregate Chinese battery makers. So, we have this contest that we are going to have to deal with.”
Sarah Bauerle Danzman, an associate professor in international studies at Indiana University Bloomington, said since the U.S. currently “doesn’t have the capability” to produce EV batteries, “what is the theory of change that helps us get to that capacity?”
“Then the question becomes, are we becoming overly reliant or staying reliant on technology that ultimately the Chinese government controls rather than the U.S.?” she said.
From 2019 to 2020, Danzman was a policy adviser and case analyst with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) at the State Department’s Office of Investment Affairs. She led the unit that reviews foreign investment transactions for possible national security concerns.
Rubio wants CFIUS to review Ford and CATL’s licensing agreement.
“Rubio is really focused on this idea that we don’t want to be dependent on Chinese technology,” she explained to VOA last week via a Skype interview. “The U.S. government coming in and changing those structures is a big imposition on the private sector, so there really does need to be a strong argument for why it needs to do so.”
“I think a lot of companies are going to find themselves in situations like this where Chinese partnerships [are] coming back to haunt us here,” said Ward. “I think our companies that have been entangled in the China market all have to reassess what they are doing.”
In its response to Rubio’s proposed legislation, Ford said its own subsidiary will build and operate the new battery plant in Michigan, and that “no other entity will get U.S. tax dollars for this project.”
During February’s announcement, Ford CEO Jim Farley said the proposed BlueOval Battery Park Michigan meets goals outlined by the Biden administration.
“We’re growing production of batteries here at home, reflecting the central purpose of the Inflation Reduction Act — that’s why it was passed, for this project,” Farley said.
Ford’s plans for the new Michigan facility come as the auto manufacturer reported more than $2 billion in operating losses in EV-related business in 2022.
Curbed by US Sanctions, Huawei Unveils New 4G Smartphones
At a March 23 product launch in Shanghai, Chinese tech giant Huawei unveiled its signature P60 series of smartphones with high-end cameras and its Mate X3 series mobile phones equipped with folding screens.
There were demonstrations. There were speeches. But something was missing from the Huawei offerings: 5G, which gives phones the speedy internet access wanted by many consumers in North America, Europe and Asia.
The smartphones also lack access to Google’s Android operating system and popular Western apps such as Google Maps.
The launch quieted “rumors that it is considering selling off its handset business, thus showcasing the company’s resilience amid U.S. government restrictions,” according to the government-affiliated China Daily.
Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei’s device business group, said at the event, “We have experienced four years of winter under sanctions. Now, the spring has come, and we are excited about the future.”
In 2020, Huawei briefly surpassed Apple and Samsung to become the world’s largest smartphone seller when its market share peaked at 18%, according to market tracker Canalys.
Then the Trump administration imposed successive rounds of U.S. export controls.
By 2022, Huawei had a 2% share of the global smartphone market, with most of its sales in China.
Now the Biden administration is considering banning all technology exports to Huawei.
And its smartphone business today shows how the Shenzhen-based company, a major supplier of equipment used in 5G telecommunications networks, still relies on American technology for some key components.
According to a December 2022 report by Counterpoint, a Hong Kong-based analyst firm, Huawei used up its stockpile of homegrown advanced chips for smartphones, leaving it with a market share of zero for the final three quarters of the year.
“They suffered a steep drop in profits. They have a lot of damage to the brand,” James Lewis, senior vice president, Pritzker chair and director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told VOA Mandarin. “I think it’s a mixed bag that Huawei was never going to give up. The Chinese government was never going to let Huawei go out of business, so they’ve found ways to keep selling things. Most of what they sell is 4G or earlier.”
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in a February 24 speech that the Chinese tech giant has survived U.S. sanctions by substituting components locally.
He said, “We completed a process of redesigning over 4,000 circuit boards as well as finding local suppliers for more than 13,000 components the company needs for our products within three years.”
Paul Triolo, senior vice president for China and technology policy lead at Albright Stone Group, a business consulting firm, said the risks of using Cold War era tools such as export controls can have unintended consequences.
In an email, Triolo told VOA Mandarin, “If the result of the ‘small yard, high fence’ policy over the next decade is to significantly slow technology innovation and massively incentivize the development of a large rival technology ecosystem, then the US approach will be judged to have failed, with many losers. Any short-term national security gain will be very hard if not impossible to measure while the short-term pain, particularly for US technology companies, will be substantial, as will the long-term consequences to global innovation systems.”
After Huawei was caught stealing trade secrets, evading U.S. bans on transferring technology to Iran and was suspected — though never proved — to be an arm of the Chinese intelligence services, the U.S. began imposing a series of controls. Since 2019, these have cut off Huawei’s supply of chips from U.S. companies and its access to U.S. technology tools to design its own chips and have them manufactured by its partners.
The Biden administration is considering tightening export control measures against Huawei and completely banning all business dealings with the company, including banning exports to Huawei’s suppliers and middlemen.
For now, vendors selling less-desirable technologies such as 4G phones can still apply to the U.S. Department of Commerce for a license to do business with Huawei. The Commerce Department has approved billions of dollars in such sales from U.S. suppliers, including Intel Corp., which sells chips used in Huawei laptops, and Qualcomm Inc., which supplies chips for 4G smartphones.
Ren said in the speech last month that Huawei invested $23.8 billion in research and development in 2022. “As our profitability improves, we will continue to increase research and development expenditures.”
He added that the company has established its own enterprise resource planning system called MetaERP. Set to launch in April, it will help run its core business functions including finance, supply chain and manufacturing operations.
Lewis said Huawei had been able to circumvent some U.S. controls.
“They have a plan on how to recover, and they’re actually making it work. It doesn’t work in a lot of countries, but it works in Latin America. It works in Africa.”
This means the U.S. will need to refine its strategy on Huawei, Lewis said.
“It has to look at how does it match Huawei, how does it match China in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said. “So the Latin Americans are buying from China and from Huawei. Huawei has Africa pretty much sewn up. So, it’s really a question of how you undo that. And the answer is, you need to do it through development aid, and I don’t know if Western countries are willing to spend.”
UNICEF Talking to Sudanese Men’s Clubs About Female Genital Mutilation
The World Health Organization says about 87% of Sudanese females between ages 15 and 49 have undergone female genital mutilation, one of the highest rates in the world. A project by the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, is targeting sports clubs to engage men and boys in the fight against the practice. Henry Wilkins reports from Khartoum, Sudan.
No Atmosphere Found at Faraway Earth-Sized World, Study Says
The Webb Space Telescope has found no evidence of an atmosphere at one of the seven rocky, Earth-sized planets orbiting another star.
Scientists said Monday that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the planets in this solar system, some of which are in the sweet spot for harboring water and potentially life.
“This is not necessarily a bust” for the other planets, Massachusetts Institute of Technology astrophysicist Sara Seager, who wasn’t part of the study, said in an email. “But we will have to wait and see.”
The Trappist solar system — a rarity with seven planets about the size of our own — has enticed astronomers ever since they spotted it just 40 light-years away. That’s close by cosmic standards; a light-year is about 5.8 trillion miles. Three of the seven planets are in their star’s habitable zone, making this star system even more alluring.
The NASA-led team reported little if any atmosphere exists at the innermost planet. Results were published Monday in the journal Nature.
The lack of an atmosphere would mean no water and no protection from cosmic rays, said lead researcher Thomas Greene of NASA’s Ames Research Center.
As for the other planets orbiting the small, feeble Trappist star, “I would have been more optimistic about the others” having atmospheres if this one had, Greene said in an email.
If rocky planets orbiting ultracool red dwarf stars like this one “do turn out to be a bust, we will have to wait for Earths around sun-like stars, which could be a long wait,” said MIT’s Seager.
Because the Trappist system’s innermost planet is bombarded by solar radiation — four times as much as Earth gets from our sun — it’s possible that extra energy is why there’s no atmosphere, Greene noted. His team found temperatures there hitting 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) on the side of the planet constantly facing its star.
By using Webb — the largest and most powerful telescope ever sent into space — the U.S. and French scientists were able to measure the change in brightness as the innermost planet moved behind its star and estimate how much infrared light was emitted from the planet.
The change in brightness was minuscule since the Trappist star is more than 1,000 times brighter than this planet, and so Webb’s detection of it “is itself a major milestone,” the European Space Agency said.
More observations are planned not only of this planet, but the others in the Trappist system. Looking at this particular planet in another wavelength could uncover an atmosphere much thinner than our own, although it seems unlikely it could survive, said Taylor Bell of the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, who was part of the study.
Further research could still uncover an atmosphere of sorts, even if it’s not exactly like what’s seen on Earth, said Michael Gillon of the University of Liege in Belgium who was part of the team that discovered the first three Trappist planets in 2016. He did not take part in the latest study.
“With rocky exoplanets, we are in uncharted territory” since scientists’ understanding is based on the four rocky planets of our solar system, Gillon said in an email.
Launched in late 2021 to an observation post 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away, Webb is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting Earth for more than three decades.
In the past, Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope scoured the Trappist system for atmospheres, but without definitive results.
“It is just the beginning, and what we can learn with the inner planets is going to be different from what we can learn from the other ones,” MIT’s Julien de Wit, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.