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The European Space Agency (ESA) has cancelled its proposed Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA; go.nature.com/2jfp8fw) just months before the final mission-selection review. The decision — made by the executive on the grounds of undisclosed costs, not by the Science Programme Committee on the basis of peer review — has left many in the astronomy community with no confidence in the decision-making processes at the agency’s highest levels (see public letter to ESA’s director of science signed by almost 300 scientists, at https://spicarebelalliance.com).