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

All Space stories

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.

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.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Updated Jul 19, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin to launch Bezos and other passengers to space Tuesday

A Blue Origin rocket takes flight. Photo: Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos and three other passengers are set to fly to space aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard Tuesday.

Why it matters: It will be the company's first launch with people aboard and the start of a new stage for Blue Origin, which is trying to beef up its customer base for these suborbital flights.

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