Space journalists != war correspondents … yet?

Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D.
3 min readFeb 21, 2024


Each week, in picking stories for Escape Velocity Space News, I look for news in a lot of places. There is the stereotypical — I check out what people are gabbing about on social media. There is the classic — I review the press releases coming out on EurekaAlert and other services. And there is the going a bit deeper — I look at what is coming out at conferences and coming out in journals. Most weeks I love learning new things, and this story-picking journey exposes me to things I just love, like archeology, animal science, and random dinosaur updates.

I am here for the paleontology, people; I am here for it.

But some weeks, I see stories I feel I should cover and then don’t because I, as a human, just… can’t.

This last week there were a bunch of new papers on various aspects of climate change, ranging from how Greenland is becoming green as its ice melts, to the implications of lowered sea ice levels in Antarctica, to the plight of polar bears.

The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions, and an increase in the wind intensity and rainfall from tropical cyclones. Credit: left — Mike McMillan/USFS, center — Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0, right — NASA.

Those stories on Polar Bears caused me to nope right out, go looking for candy, and learn my husband had eaten all my peppermint patties.

As a space science journalist, I rarely have to deal with widespread human suffering or even potential human suffering in my stories. My colleagues who cover wars, pandemics, and economics… I don’t know how they do it year on year.

News I never expected to worry about covering.

This week I realized, that when it comes to international politics and war, space could be the new frontier. My safety in covering space science may be coming to an end.

In a story covered very well by the Washington Post and discussed by the Atlantic Council, we learned that Russia is developing a space-based nuclear weapons platform. According to WaPo and CNN sources, the goal isn’t to target satellites with missiles, as we’ve seen done with conventional weapons in the past. Rather, the goal is to detonate a nuclear weapon in an area of orbit that will cause a Matrix-style overload of electronics that kills all the satellites in the local sphere. Depending on what altitude this kind of detonation occurs at, the EMP blast could also affect the surface of the Earth.

Over on the Astronomy Cast podcast, Fraser and I discuss this story in a fair amount of detail and we put it in the context of the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

This week, on EVSN, we’re covering none of this. We’re instead going to discuss exoplanets, the structures of atoms, the evolution of SN 1987a, and future lunar structures. We’re going to take you not just out of this world, but out of our solar system. We’re going to visit my happy place… and I hope it is your happy place too.

Patrons will get the new episode on Friday (possibly Saturday — our producer is mid-move), and everyone else will get it on YouTube next week. Join our Patreon at and subscribe on YouTube:



Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D.

Astronomer, technologist, & creative focused on using new media to engage people in learning and doing science. Opinions & typos my own.