Space.com was founded by former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs and Rich Zahradnik, in July 1999. At that time, Dobbs owned a sizeable share of the company, and, in an unexpected move, left CNN later that year to become Space.com's chief executive officer. The move came as a surprise to many and was the source of intense media speculation.
The company struggled to turn a profit in its early days, and when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, many felt that it would collapse. Co-founder Rich Zahradnik had left his position as president less than two months after the start of the company; former astronaut Sally Ride took his place but then stepped down in September 2000. As it expanded, it acquired other web sites such as Starport.com and Explorezone.com. It also acquired Sienna Software (the company which produced the Starry Night software) and Space News. Despite some growth, Space.com was never able to achieve what Dobbs had hoped for and in 2001, he returned to CNN. He remains on its board and still owns a minority stake.
Space.com has enjoyed the participation of several key space-related public figures, Neil Armstrong, Alexei Leonov, Eugene A. Cernan, and Thomas Stafford. In 2003, for its coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, it received the Online Journalism Award for Breaking News by the Online News Association.