The big picture

Billionaires are the new face of the final frontier

Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and their ilk are changing the rhetoric around space and the public's relationship to it.

Jul 13, 2021 - Science
NASA chief touts new Earth-observing satellites for climate

"I became more of an environmentalist when I went into space," NASA's Bill Nelson said.

May 25, 2021 - Energy & Environment
Major satellite program launches to hunt for methane, carbon "super-emitters"

The new consortium represents a potential leap forward in the effort to hold polluters accountable.

Apr 15, 2021 - Energy & Environment
The rise of military space powers

Nations around the world are shoring up their military capabilities in space.

Dec 1, 2020 - Science
How NASA and the Space Force might fare under Biden

NASA might get to stay the course, but would have to compete with other spending priorities.

Oct 27, 2020 - Science
The next environmental crisis could be in space

Space junk could threaten humanity's future in the stars.

Oct 20, 2020 - Science

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Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 hours ago - Science

Jeff Bezos offers NASA $2 billion for lunar lander contract


Jeff Bezos is offering NASA $2 billion in incentives if the space agency awards his company Blue Origin a contract to build a human lunar lander.

Why it matters: NASA is working to send people to the Moon by 2024 and a privately built, human-rated lander is a huge part of that goal.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 hours ago - Science

New requirements for FAA astronaut wings

The Blue Origin New Shepard takes flight. Photo: Blue Origin

The FAA updated its requirements for who qualifies for commercial astronaut wings.

Why it matters: As more people fly to space in the coming years with companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, having some clarity about who counts as a commercial astronaut could help customers weigh the risks versus rewards of flying.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 hours ago - Science

NASA's Perseverance rover gets busy on Mars

Mars seen by Perseverance. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars is about to collect its first rock sample from the Red Planet.

Why it matters: The space agency wants to send a future mission to collect that sample and others Perseverance caches for a return to Earth where they can be analyzed by high-powered tools.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
9 hours ago - Science

What comes next after the International Space Station ends

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

NASA is at risk of losing a foothold in orbit after the end of the International Space Station.

Why it matters: Without an operating base in space, the agency's plan to shift from being a sole provider of services in orbit to becoming a customer of companies operating there is in jeopardy.

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.

Jul 22, 2021 - Podcasts

Virgin Galactic astronaut Sirisha Bandla on science and space tourism

Space travel once unified Americans with the excitement of scientific discovery and wonderment. But the recent suborbital trips headlined by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have been much more divisive, with critics accusing the billionaires of taking pricey joyrides while the Earth below them literally burns.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with engineer and Virgin Galactic executive Sirisha Bandla, who flew alongside Branson, to better understand what space tourism could also mean for the future of science.

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.

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.

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