October 31, 2023

I have loved bringing you this newsletter for the past 4.5 years, but the time has come for me to take things in a new direction.

  • This is the final edition of Axios Space. I'm joining Nashville Public Radio as a news editor in November.

If you'll indulge me, I'm going to use this final edition as a victory lap and a vehicle for saying thank you to some very important people.

  • At 837 words, this newsletter is a 3-minute read. You can send your final thoughts to [email protected] or just hit reply if you received this as an email.
  • Subscribe to the Axios Science newsletter here and Axios AM here.

Here's a little soundtrack for your reading. And for the final time... let's light this candle.

1 big thing: Why space matters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Paying attention to what's happening in space is more important than ever as our future in orbit and beyond is increasingly defined by private corporations.

The big picture: Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing and Virgin Galactic are driving the next generation of space exploration and tourism.

  • Their technologies are setting the course and expanding the industry's influence. Their internet-supplying high ground is giving companies geopolitical sway. Their capabilities are defining military actions.
  • NASA dominated the industry for decades, working with its contractors to build specifically designed systems like the space shuttle. But now, the space agency is relying more and more on systems built by private companies to realize its goals.

What's happening: Unlike NASA, these companies aren't mandated to be publicly transparent about everything they're doing.

  • Many space companies receive public funds through contracts with NASA and other government agencies, but their private missions are their own.
  • "NASA, as a taxpayer-funded organization, has always had to provide the public with launch lists and livestreams," Marina Koren writes in The Atlantic. "But the age of space tourism raises a host of questions: How much openness do space-tourism companies owe the public? How much privacy do they owe their customers?"
  • The public sees what these companies want them to see on webcasts, social media and websites, but their finances, objectives and driving forces aren't always known.

Between the lines: This is where space reporters can shine.

  • Our jobs are most useful when we're digging, trying to find out the things that reveal essential truths about this relatively new industry that's invisible to most yet essential to our everyday lives.
  • I'm reminded of Loren Grush's reporting on SpaceX's internal culture, Alexandra Witze's dogged work on NASA's naming of the James Webb Space Telescope, Micah Maidenberg's stories on SpaceX's financials, Koren's on-the-ground investigation from Starbase, Texas, and so many other important pieces.
  • It's been an honor — these past 10 years — to call these talented space reporters (and so many more) my colleagues and friends. Their work is worth watching. (More on that below.)

Yes, but: While this move toward opacity is worrying, space is still full of wonder.

  • The James Webb Space Telescope — alongside the Hubble and others — is redefining our understanding of the universe.
  • The search for intelligent alien life is being taken more seriously than ever before, and long-lived spacecraft are exploring the outer reaches of our Sun's influence.
  • It's objectively an amazing time to be a space fan.

The bottom line: While I'm taking a break from reporting on space, I'll always be a space reporter at heart.

2. What I'll be reading

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The space newsletter landscape has changed quite a bit since Axios Space first came on the scene in 2019. Here's what I read and what I think you should read too...

  • If you're looking for daily industry news, try Payload, which has kept me up to date on the major deals and movements within the space industry.
  • For weekly space investing news (and some sweet memes), subscribe to Michael Sheetz's Investing in Space from CNBC.
  • Subscribe to First Up from SpaceNews for the essential space stories making news on any given day.
  • Leah Crane's Launchpad newsletter from New Scientist is a delightful (and almost always hilarious) dive into space science each month.

3. Thank you

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

My name was on this newsletter, but it wouldn't have been possible without everyone working behind the scenes.

  • Copy editor Sheryl Miller has saved me on numerous occasions from extremely silly errors — like a misspelled name or writing millions when I meant billions. She's also a joy to Slack with.
  • My editor Alison Snyder has been the single best sounding board and a wonderful advocate for my work. I've been lucky to work with her.
  • Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath, Andrew Freedman, Jacob Knutson and all of my newsroom collaborators over the years have made this job rich, fun and joyful. And the Axios Visuals team truly brought our stories to life.
  • Thank you to Axios' leadership team for taking a chance on this little newsletter covering a big beat.

And maybe most importantly, I want to thank all of you, dear readers. Your feedback, appreciation (and occasional snark) made my job worth doing.

4. Out of this world reading list... Axios Space edition

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

🛰 Elon Musk, the self-employed diplomat (Axios)

👽 Hyped-up alien claims risk undermining future ET discoveries (Axios)

💰 A renaissance for Venus (Axios)

🎧 How it Happened: The Next Astronauts (Axios Podcast)

5. Weekly dose of awe: That's here. That's home. That's us

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

I was an anxious kid. When that anxiety would get the better of me, I would go outside and look up at the stars.

  • Looking up into a dark, star-filled sky would calm my mind, show me how small my problems were, and allow me to relax and eventually get some sleep.
  • Space still gives me that much-needed dose of perspective.
  • This pale blue dot photo was taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 before its camera was turned off to conserve power. The image shows Earth from about 4 billion miles away as "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam," as Carl Sagan wrote.

If that's not perspective, I don't know what is.