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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.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 31, 2021 - Science

A mission to space like no other

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The launch next month of the first all-civilian mission to orbit is an ambitious test for a burgeoning space industry's futuristic dream of sending many more ordinary people to space in the next few years.

Why it matters: Companies and nations envision millions of people living and working in space without having to become professional, government-backed astronauts. Those hopes are riding on SpaceX's next crewed mission, called Inspiration4.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 14, 2021 - Science

Wrestling with the risks of private missions to space

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew, launching to orbit this week, will force the space industry to contend with just how much risk ordinary people are willing to take on in order to build humanity's future in space.

Why it matters: The private space industry's goal of building an economy in space hinges on sending more people to orbit in the near future. But spaceflight is still an incredibly risky endeavor and it will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 hours ago - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.