Tuesday's science stories

Space business gets billionaire boost

Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew (L-R) Jeff Bezos, Wally Funk, Oliver Daemen and Mark Bezos walk near the booster. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Blue Origin's successful flight is the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats story of the moment for the sector.

Why it matters: For investors, it doesn’t matter which billionaire hits space first. Recent headlines only generate more interest, some of which turns into investments — and that's good for companies that need cash.

Wildfires mushroom in West amid heat, drought, prompting evacuations

Pyrocumulonimbus cloud towers over the Dixie Fire on Monday afternoon, seen via a California wildfire camera. (PG&E wildfire camera.)

Wildfires across the West dramatically increased in size from Monday through Tuesday, with 83 large blazes now burning in the U.S. and about 300 to the north in British Columbia.

Why it matters: The western wildfire season has kicked into high gear about two months early, as climate change-related drought and heat waves have dried out vegetation to levels not typically seen prior to late summer. About 20,000 firefighters are already deployed to blazes.

What Jeff Bezos and his crew brought to space

Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark brought three aviation-related tokens with them as they flew with two other passengers to suborbital space on Tuesday morning, they revealed at a post-flight press conference:

  • A piece of canvas from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the world's first heavier-than-air flying machine.
  • A bronze medallion made from the first hot air balloon flight in 1783, the first time man flew on a controlled flight.
  • The goggles that Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean with in 1932.
Jul 20, 2021 - Science

Bezos says space flight reinforced commitment to fighting climate change

Jeff Bezos said in an interview hours after flying to suborbital space on Tuesday that there are "no words" to adequately describe the experience, but that it reinforced his commitment to combatting climate change and keeping Earth "as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is."

Why it matters: Bezos, the world's richest man, said he plans to make Blue Origin and the Bezos Earth Fund — a $10 billion effort to fight climate change — his life focus moving forward.

Jul 20, 2021 - Science

82-year-old Wally Funk becomes oldest person to fly to space

82-year-old Wally Funk became the oldest person ever to fly to space on Tuesday after taking flight alongside Jeff Bezos and two other passengers on a rocket built by Blue Origin.

The big picture: Funk has been vying to go to space since 1961, when she passed dozens of exams as part of the Woman in Space Program before it was shut down by the U.S. government, preventing Funk — and 12 other women — from launching into space, the New York Times reports.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Updated Jul 20, 2021 - Science

Jeff Bezos, 3 others land safely after flight to space with Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos and three other passengers took flight with his space company Blue Origin on Tuesday morning, launching high above West Texas.

Why it matters: It's Blue Origin's first human flight and a major technical milestone for the company as it focuses on bringing suborbital spaceflight to more people in the future.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Updated Jul 20, 2021 - Science

Recap: Jeff Bezos heads to space

Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, and three other passengers flew on a suborbital mission into space Tuesday morning aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard.

The latest: The four-person crew is safely back on Earth after their flight to space. New Shepard launched Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk and the company's first paying customer, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, on a mission to suborbital space.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jul 20, 2021 - Science

New wrinkle for space tourism: Deciding who counts as an astronaut

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Jeff Bezos is going to space today, but whether that makes him an astronaut is open to interpretation.

Why it matters: Bezos and his billionaire rival Richard Branson are hoping to lure wealthy customers into space tourism, in part, with the promise of becoming astronauts — but the definition of who is considered an astronaut isn't clear-cut.

Resources pushed to limit as wildfires burn across U.S. and Canada

A helicopter flies with a load of water to the Bootleg Fire, near Bly, Oregon. Photo: Payton Bruni/AFP via Getty Images

Fire officials are seeing resources stretched to the limit as scores of wildfires burn across the U.S. and Canada amid hot, dry conditions.

Threat level: In Oregon, officials have called in firefighting support from outside the Pacific Northwest — as the biggest blaze in the U.S., the Bootleg Fire, swelled to 537 square miles Monday.

Updated Jul 20, 2021 - Science

FEMA chief heads West as large wildfires rage, heat wave peaks

Fire engulfs trees at the Tamarack fire in Central California on Saturday. Photo: Ty O'Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell will make her first trip to wildfire-affected states amid another dangerous week of extreme heat and "critical" fire weather conditions, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The West is experiencing its worst drought this century, and repeated, extreme heat waves have dried out forests and grasslands, priming them to burn. Officials are gearing up for an unprecedented, prolonged peak fire season.

U.K. issues first ever extreme heat warning

People on Bournemouth beach in Dorset, southwest England, on Monday. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Met Office issued its first ever "Extreme Heat Warning" on Monday, after all four U.K. nations recorded their hottest day so far this year over the weekend.

Driving the news: "The impacts from extreme heat are increasing across the U.K. due to climate change," per a June Met Office statement announcing its new amber and red warning system to inform the public of potential widespread disruption and adverse health effects.