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On Monday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden gave an exciting update on the state of America’s space agency, detailing the Obama Administration’s proposal to give NASA $18.5 billion for the 2024 fiscal year. Embedded in that budget is a small—yet significant—detail: About $30 million will be allocated to fund a robotic mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa.

For the scientific community, that’s huge news, as Europa is probably the top candidate for finding potential life elsewhere in our solar system. Scientists theorize (well, they’re pretty damn sure) that underneath Europa’s icy surface, there lies a vast salty ocean, holding more than twice the amount of water as all the oceans of Earth. And if that ocean does exist, its conditions may be just right for it to be home to an entire ecosystem.

“From an astrobiology perspective, Europa really brings together the keystones for habitability.”

“From an astrobiology perspective, Europa really brings together the three keystones for habitability,” Kevin Hand, the deputy chief scientist of solar system exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, tells Popular Science. “And that is of liquid water, access to the elements needed to build life, and potentially the energy needed to power life.”

NASA has been contemplating a trip to Europa for a couple of years, and Congress recently gave the project $100 million for 2024. While the White House proposal only allots $30 million, the fact that it’s coming from the president is important. NASA is an executive branch agency, in need of White House support, and the administration’s new budget “supports the formulation and development of a Europa Mission.” That means NASA engineers can finally put their planning into action.

“They want us to move into the next phase of the mission,” says Robert Pappalardo, the Europa Clipper pre-project scientist at JPL. “So we’re moving to Phase A, where you become a real mission, not just a concept.”

What’s So Special About Europa?

Jupiter’s moon could hide life.

Europa is a bit of an anomaly within our solar system. The moon’s outer layer consists of an icy sheet, somewhere between 1 mile and 18 miles thick (the scientific community is divided on its depth). Due to the ice’s smooth surface and lack of impact craters, researchers believe that this layer is relatively young and active, meaning something—such as an icy, volcanic flow underneath—is constantly renewing the ice and erasing past imperfections.

This has led many experts to support the theory that there’s an ocean underneath the icy crust. The idea was further solidified in 1995 during NASA’s Galileo mission, in which a probe entered orbit around Jupiter. As it passed by the moons, the Galileo spacecraft found that Jupiter’s magnetic field was disrupted in the area around Europa. The disruption indicates that an electrically conductive fluid beneath the moon’s surface is inducing a special kind of magnetic field around the satellite. And given Europa’s icy outer shell, that substance is most likely water.

Researchers believe the bottom of the moon’s ocean likely comes in contact with a hot rocky mantle surrounding Europa’s core.

Europa isn’t the only extraterrestrial body in our solar system thought to house a liquid ocean, but the moon holds a number of other key properties that particularly titillate experts—notably, its constant radiation bath. Jupiter bombards Europa with intense radiation, which breaks up compounds on the ice’s surface into essential elements. “That radiation is deadly to us, but that same radiation bombarding the water, it liberates the hydrogen and leaves oxygen behind, making oxidants,” says Pappalardo. “And those are great for life.” The free hydrogen and oxygen combine with other surface materials to make important building blocks for life, including hydrogen peroxide, carbon dioxide, and more.

Along with creating these compounds, Europa may also provide the energy needed to sustain life, as well. Researchers believe the bottom of the moon’s ocean likely comes in contact with a hot rocky mantle surrounding Europa’s core. This direct interaction between the water and heated rock could be just what the planet needs to trigger the energy needed for life.”On Earth’s ocean floors, the interior is hot, and the water comes in contact [with the heated rock below], and that water gets charged,” says Pappalardo. “There’s chemical energy there, and those areas are teaming with life.”

If the compounds from Europa’s surface are warmed by the energetic ocean floor below, the combination could spark the growth of aliens right here within our solar system.

How To Go To Europa

Europa’s Surface

An artist rendering of what Europa’s surface might look like

Of course, all of these features of Europa are purely hypothetical. NASA has no direct evidence of an ocean, but engineers at the space agency are really eager to verify that it exists. Now, with the most recent announcement from the White House, they will finally get that chance.

NASA has been mulling over different ways to get to Europa for years, but finding the right method has been difficult. Because of the high radiation environment surrounding the moon, sending a spacecraft into orbit would require a lot of extra hardware and heat shielding to protect the vehicle from all the charged particles. And that adds up cost-wise. One scrapped idea to visit Europa along with two other Jupiter moons was estimated to cost $27 billion.

“Some ideas have been too small, some too big, some too expensive,” says Pappalardo. “Now we think it’s just right.”

The idea moving forward is the Europa Clipper mission. Rather than send a probe into constant orbit around Europa, NASA wants to send a spacecraft to “clip” Europa, performing 45 flybys of the moon over a long period of time. “Most of the time we’d be far from Europa and Jupiter, then we’d swoop in every couple of weeks, gather lots of data and then get out,” says Pappalardo. “We call it a toe dip; you get your feet in the water and then run back out on the sand.”

“Some ideas have been too small, some too big, some too expensive. Now we think it’s just right.

During these flybys, the radiation-tolerant spacecraft will travel to varying altitudes above Europa and use different instruments to study the moon’s composition. Although the exact instruments for the payload haven’t been determined yet, Pappalardo says the main thing the probe will be studying is the gravitational pull on the spacecraft by Europa. This tugging and pulling can help confirm the presence of an ocean.

“If there is an ocean, Europa’s ice shell will flex by [100 feet] every time it orbits Jupiter” say Pappalardo, “…So when we encounter Europa, and it’s all stretched out, then it indicates water underneath. If there’s no liquid water, that icy shell is kind of glued to the rock below, so it’ll only flex by about 1 foot.”

Since the scientific community is pretty well convinced that an ocean awaits, Pappalardo’s team wants to go one step further and analyze what those waters are like. By equipping the spacecraft with a magnetometer, the researchers can measure the changing magnetic field around Europa, which indicates the thickness and the saltiness of the subsurface sea. Radar on the spacecraft will also determine the thickness of the outer ice shell (a topic that has divided some researchers).

Additional instruments under consideration for use include a topographic camera, a neutral mass spectrometer to sniff out Europa’s atmosphere, and an infrared spectrometer to study the composition of Europa’s surface.

The Big Picture

Right now, Pappalardo’s team is working toward a launch date of 2023, hoping to send the spacecraft aboard NASA’s Space Launch System, the mega-rocket currently in development at the Michoud Assembly Facility. On that rocket, travel time to the Jupiter system would take just three years.

Overall, the main goal of this mission is to see if Europa is a place where life could be present. If Europa Clipper does indeed find life-sustaining conditions, the discovery could lead to a follow-up mission that look for more direct evidence of alien microbes. “All life on earth uses the DNA, RNA, protein paradigm, and so part of why we want to go to Europa is to essentially test the biology hypothesis to see if life arises wherever conditions are right.” says Hand.

If we do find life on Europa someday, the finding will change everything. It answers that all-powerful question: Are we alone? Just a few microbes on Europa mean that life is probably pretty common throughout the universe.

And if there are no traces of life on Europa, even when conditions are ideal, that too denotes a huge finding. “If the ingredients are there and there’s no life,” says Pappalardo, “then wow, life must be even more special and rare than we imagined.”

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Inside The Machine That Chills Your Beer In One Minute

How can you turn lukewarm lager to ice-cold beer in under a minute? A startup has developed a nifty gizmo which does just that, saving both energy and embarrassment at parties. Manufacturer Enviro-Cool claims that chilling on demand with a V-Tex could save retailers €1000 per fridge per year, and of course help to keep the planet cool too. So how does the device actually work?

Media reports have dubbed the device a “reverse microwave“, but that analogy would receive a chilly reception amongst physicists. Unfortunately, you can’t simply wire up a microwave oven backwards and suck the heat from an object.

In fact, despite the PR spin about “Rankine vortices”, this device is remarkably unremarkable in some respects: the rapid cooling of drinks is achieved by putting them into contact with something cold. However, there is a twist: the interesting science here is fluid dynamics, not thermodynamics.

Tricky chilling

It’s easy to heat food quickly in a microwave oven. Why is it so hard to cool things down? The temperature of an object is essentially a measure of how much energy it holds. A hotter object has more energy than a colder one. Cooling is difficult because coaxing the atoms inside an object to give up their energy is a tricky business.

If you want to cool a material at will, you need to choose your material quite carefully. A gas is ideal: gases can be heated by compression (which is why a bicycle pump is warm to the touch after use) or, conversely, cooled by expansion (which is why the rapidly-expanding gas from an aerosol can feels cool).

There are no gaseous foods, and solids or liquids are more difficult to chill. The only simple option is to place them in contact with something cold.

This is, of course, how a fridge works: compressing and expanding gas in a series of tubes makes them cold. These tubes then cool the air in the fridge, which then cools your food. The problem with this process is that air and food are pretty terrible conductors of heat, so it takes a long time for the heat to flow out of food, via the air and into the cold pipes, where it is expelled from the back of the fridge to warm up the kitchen.

Thus, to increase the speed of cooling, we need another medium to transport heat. This is the first aspect of the V-Tex which differs from a normal fridge: it uses water to carry the heat from the drink being cooled. But water is so much more effective than air that you run into another problem. Suck out heat from a chicken too quickly and the skin will be frozen before the inside even begins to cool—the opposite of a typical barbecue disaster where food cooked at too high a heat is burnt on the outside, but still raw on the inside. In the case of drinks, the nonuniform cooling can create either an exterior layer of ice with a highly concentrated solution of icky syrup at its core, or an unintentional slushie of half-frozen Sauvignon blanc.

With solid objects, from last night’s pasta bake to organs for transplant, this is where the story ends: you are just going to have to cool it more carefully if you want to avoid freezing. But with a liquid, you have another option: agitate the liquid such that the whole volume is uniformly exposed to the cold.

Twisted problem

Many common beverages, however, pose one further problem. From Pepsi to Prosecco, the fizz in fizzy drinks comes from CO2 gas dissolved in the liquid. This CO2 is looking for any excuse to escape, and these excuses come in the form of “nucleation sites”, which encourage bubbles to form: from tiny pits on the surface of Mentos to a disturbance in the liquid itself. This is why you can’t simply shake ’n’ cool: if you’ve ever played a playground prank with a shaken bottle of Coke, or watched champagne being sprayed from a Formula One podium, you’ll be aware of the effervescent consequences of disturbing a liquid containing dissolved gas.

This is why the V-Tex designers had to devise a smart way of uniformly cooling fizzy liquids. The solution was to rotate, shake with a wiggle and rotate again. This creates a smooth-flowing vortex, with no pressure waves which might induce bubble formation. Details are scant (patents cover the meticulous choreography behind it), but the website does mention repeated creation and destruction of a “Rankine vortex”, which is one way in which a fluid can smoothly swirl.

This device is no reverse microwave: its rapid cooling only works on liquids, and the thermal conduction of the container makes a significant difference (they claim a 500 ml metal can can be cooled in 50 seconds and an equivalent glass bottle would take six minutes).

The media missed out on a better story: in a V-Tex your drink is being stirred, not shaken, by a rapidly moving robot arm (in a tank of ice water). Make the whole assembly transparent and throw in some LEDs, a little more like the prototype, and the short wait for your fizzy pop lays bare some cool physics.

Andrew Steele does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

A Race Car Manufacturer Is Planning To Make Evs For Everyday Drivers

Iconic Italian automaker Alfa Romeo is all in on the electrification train, claiming its spot as the first brand under the Stellantis umbrella (created through the merger of car companies Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot S.A.) to go all electric by 2027. 

Alfa Romeo revealed its ambitious plan to release five new vehicles in the next six years, and the first model on that list will be an electrified crossover, the Tonale. This new plug-in hybrid will be available to customers in the US in early 2023 as part of Alfa Romeo’s transition to an EV brand.

With its Dare Forward 2030 strategy, which it announced on March 1, Stellantis committed to selling more than 75 different kinds of battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs. That includes Jeep’s first fully battery-electric SUV launching in early 2023, followed by the Ram ProMaster BEV later next year and the Ram 1500 BEV pickup truck in 2024. Stellantis is also targeting carbon net zero emissions by 2038. Even Alfa Romeo’s stablemate Dodge, famous for producing gas-guzzling muscle cars, is on board with the shift and plans to sell its first fully electric performance model in 2024. 

Some Stellantis brands have been paving the way towards full electrification by first offering a series of hybrids. For example, Jeep’s Wrangler and Grand Cherokee models are available as plug-in hybrids and have been selling quite well. Meanwhile, Americans looking for a rugged EV pickup now have a new option in GMC’s just-announced Sierra EV, competing with the upcoming Ram EV and Chevrolet Silverado EV along with Ford’s already-available F-150 Lightning. 

[Related: Carmakers are pouring billions into producing EV batteries]

The whole trajectory is leaps and bounds away from where executives thought it was heading as recently as a year ago. 

It’s an especially sharp turn for Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, who said at the start of 2023 in an interview that he felt that “electrification is a technology chosen by politicians, not by industry.” However, the industry’s race toward electrification is sweeping up everything in its path, and the pressure from policymakers, as well as the public, are mounting. Many big car makers have stated that they’re onboard, despite progress being slower than expected.

“The people have decided: we will be purely electric,” the company’s European Head Uwe Hochschurtz declared during an interview this month. 

And it seems that most are in favor of Alfa Romeo’s metamorphosis. After the global reveal of the Tonale PHEV in February, a flood of curious virtual tire-kickers made their way to the Alfa Romeo website to learn more. Surprisingly, about 82 percent of website visitors checking out the Tonale are new to Alfa Romeo. This statistic is a good sign for Senior Vice President and Head of Alfa Romeo and Fiat North America Larry Dominique, since the company’s, and industry’s, move to electric cars will require the 113-year-old brand to cater to a new buyer demographic.

Alfa Romeo is profitable and stable for the first time in several years, Dominique says, riding the success of the Giulia performance sedan and the Stelvio SUV. The brand has promised its fealty to the popular Giulia, which will become an EV at some point in the coming year or two. 

“We will still build a flagship sedan and Giulia will be electrified,” Dominique told MotorTrend’s Alissa Priddle in an interview in May. 

While the Stelvio seems to be the logical second act, it seems the production of the all-new Tonale may open the door to other innovations. Currently, Alfa Romeo’s Formula One team is running with a Ferrari V6 turbo hybrid engine in its cars, and Alfa’s production engineering team worked closely with its F1 engineers and drivers to create the Tonale from the ground up. These synergies may spawn a reimagining of the electric-vehicle course as the line between racing and mass production blurs, cross-pollinating the Italian performance brand across the board. 

Head of Alfa Romeo’s F1 group Cristiano Fiorio told PopSci at the Grand Prix in Austin that he fully supports the CO2 reduction goals Stellantis set. The future, for him, is clear. 

“It’s very easy for me because I have two kids, 7 and 11 [years old], and we owe them because we have not done our job [to reduce carbon emissions],” Fiorio said. “Now we don’t have time to wait. There is no other way.” 

We Finally Have The Juno Spacecraft’s First Results On Jupiter

Last summer, the Juno spacecraft flew within about 2,600 miles of Jupiter—the closest any human-made object had ever come to the largest planet in our solar system.

Scientists are still analyzing all the juicy data Juno collected during that first flyby, as well as later orbits, but the first results have just been published. Two new studies in Science and 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters document a number of odd and amazing findings. Here are the highlights of what we’ve learned so far about Jupiter.

Its north pole is a chaotic mess of storms…

Juno gets 10 times closer to Jupiter’s north pole than any other spacecraft in history. Images from its first close pass show the tumultuous region is dotted with oval-shaped cyclones, which span as much as 870 miles across. That’s wider than the distance between Chicago and New York.

…And it’s very different from Saturn’s north pole.

Saturn’s north pole is encircled by an enormous hexagon-shaped storm, with a high-speed vortex spinning at its center. Jupiter’s north pole is not nearly so organized, showing that the atmospheres of these two gas giants are fundamentally different.

Jupiter may not have a distinct core.

“We used to think there was like a little ball of heavy elements, small and quite distinct at its center,” says NASA astrophysicist Jack Connerney. “Now we’re thinking that mass may be much more spread out.” High heat and pressure at Jupiter’s center may be dissolving the planet’s original rock-ice core in a layer of liquid metallic hydrogen, eroding it until it’s no longer sharply differentiated from the rest of the gas giant.

Its atmosphere circulates like Earth’s…

Peering into the thermal structure of Jupiter’s atmosphere, Juno found signs that ammonia wells up from the deep atmosphere, feeding clouds that form giant weather systems around its equator. These “striking and unexpected” features resemble Earth’s Hadley cells, wherein winds blowing toward the equator rise, produce thunderstorms, and then flow back toward the poles. But Jupiter’s cells are much bigger, and instead of water, they rain out ammonia crystals that quickly evaporate.

…But its auroras are not like ours.

Juno found that the electrons in Jupiter’s auroras mostly stream upwards, away from the poles and toward space. If Jupiter’s auroras were like Earth’s, Juno would have seen more electrons flowing down as well. “We’ve had the electrons going in the wrong direction this whole time,” says Connerney. “And that’s kind of the theme, here—we’re finding out that a lot of our simple interpretations about Jupiter don’t really hold.”

Its magnetic field is twice as strong as we expected…

Juno found that, close up, Jupiter’s magnetic field is roughly 10 times stronger than Earth’s.

…And its dynamo might be showing.

For hundreds of years, scientists have wondered how planets and stars generate magnetic fields. On Earth, we can’t see the dynamo that’s generating our magnetic field because it’s buried deep in a rocky, iron-laden crust. But that’s not a problem with a gas giant. Jupiter’s magnetic field is turning out to be a lot more complicated than expected, with lots of small-scale structures embedded. According to Connerney, these variations may mean Juno is getting close to the dynamo, and that Jupiter’s dynamo is very close to the surface. By piecing together data from one orbit at a time, Juno may provide the first clear map of what a dynamo looks like.

What’s most exciting?

Connerney thinks the magnetic field findings are the most exciting so far. “After 500 years of wondering,” he says, “we might actually see what a dynamo looks like by the end of the mission.” But he admits that as a magnetic field scientist, he’s biased. The other teams of researchers are equally excited about their own findings, he says. “It’s like six blind guys telling you what an elephant looks like. It just depends on which part you’re grabbing at that point.”

Juno still has another year or two before it retires, with no doubt its biggest discoveries yet to come. By the end of it, we should have a much more complete picture of the elephant in the solar system.

12 Ways To Get Past A Paywall

Bypassing a paywall on WSJ, Business Insider, NYT, etc. is supposed to be something only a paid customer can do. A paywall is in place for that very purpose: to prevent anyone but paid users from accessing specific content.

However, depending on how the paywall works, you might have luck using a paywall unblocker to see what’s behind it. Other times, a simple browser trick might be enough to remove the paywall and read the article, watch the video, etc.

Table of Contents

There are two types of paywalls, and you’ll most likely have luck unlocking only the “soft” kind. A soft paywall is one that lets you see some of the content before it blocks the rest, whereas a hard paywall requires payment upfront without a content preview or limited-time access.

Note: We don’t recommend using paywall blockers because they starve a company of a potentially huge revenue source. Similar to ad-blockers, you should use them wisely and consider the impact they might have on your favorite sites.

Also, if you prefer to watch over reading, check out our short video on YouTube where we walk you through some of the paywall-bypassing options mentioned in the article:

12 Paywall Unblockers

You can try a number of methods to get past a paywall. Some are bound to not work at all, but there’s surely one or two options that should work for the site you’re trying to access.

Bypass Paywalls Firefox Extension

Use this Firefox extension to bypass the paywall. It works on Bloomberg, Denver Post, the Baltimore Sun, chúng tôi The Herald, and many other sites. Just use the download link at the top of that page to get the file, and then drag it into a Firefox window to install it.

From there, all you have to do is access the site to see if the extension removed the paywall. You can go into the settings to disable the block (allow the paywall) on any of the supported sites.

Look for the Article Elsewhere

Copy the article’s headline and paste it into a search engine to look for a duplicate. This is one of the easiest ways to get around a paywall because many times, a popular article from a subscription-based

Something important to remember when doing a search like this where there are several spaces is to surround the words in quotes like you see above. This will limit the search results but guarantee that what you find is relevant to the article you’re after.

Try the Unpaywall Chrome Extension

Unpaywall is a Chrome extension that unblocks paywalls on scholarly articles. It scours the internet for free PDF versions of the item and then provides you with a link to find the free version.

Reset Your Browser Cookies

Delete your browser cookies or use incognito mode to get around the paywall. If the website lets you view a handful of articles and then blocks access with a paywall, they’re doing so via storing cookies that track how many pages you’ve viewed.

Removing the cookies or opening the website in incognito mode to bypass the cookies, will appear to the website as though you’re a new visitor, thus resetting the number of free articles you can open.

Learn where your browser’s cookies are stored to delete them. Or, see how to use private browsing mode in Chrome or Opera, Edge or Internet Explorer, or in Firefox.

Enter the page URL into Outline. Outline is meant for annotating web pages and reading the content with little distractions, but due to how it works, it’s generally helpful for getting past paywalls.

Delete the Paywall Manually

Delete the paywall pop-up, if possible. Some websites use a super basic paywall system where the only thing stopping you from viewing the page is a pop-up. While there isn’t an exit button easily accessible, you can view the page source and remove it manually to reveal the content behind it.

paywall message and select Inspect. Use the mouse pointer option at the top left of Chrome’s tool to find the delete several things until you find the right mixture to get rid of the entire paywall.

A similar option that might work if the paywall uses JavaScript, is to block the script with a tool like Quick JavaScript Switcher for Chrome. If you don’t use Chrome or these methods aren’t working, try a web proxy that can strip away scripts, like HMA.

Stop the Page From Fully Loading

Quickly pause the page before the paywall can open. If you don’t have luck deleting it or blocking JavaScript, you might be able to interrupt the page from fully loading to stop the paywall pop-up from displaying.

too quickly or the paywall launches before the article, this won’t work. To try this, just refresh the page and hit the Esc

Dig Through Archive Sites Use a “Read-it-Later” Tool

Similar to the cookie method above, this one doesn’t store the visit as one of your own because the page’s contents are being sent elsewhere and not loaded on your computer.

Convert the Page to PDF

There are lots of page-to-PDF converters out there, one example being chúng tôi Just put the URL of the paywall page into the text box, convert it, and then download the PDF to have yourself an offline, always-accessible copy of the article.

Look for Login Details

If it’s a hard paywall you’re dealing with that requires a user account, try a shared login service. Websites like BugMeNot might have login details you can use to log in to the website and bypass the paywall by pretending to be a real user.

Sign up for a Free Trial

Another paywall bypass method involves paying…sort of. If there’s an option to apply for a trial so that you can get around the paywall, use it and then cancel the trial before you’re charged. This is definitely a no-brainer, but the reason we bring it up is because it’s still free and will definitely get you past the block.

However, if you do this, be sure to cancel the trial or you’ll have to pay! You can use a virtual payment service like Privacy to make sure the card you use to pay only covers the trial and won’t charge you for the service.

Counting Down To The Artemis 1 Launch, Nasa’s Biggest Moon Mission In Decades

After facing cancellation, resumption, Congressional hearing drama, COVID-19, technical delays, and more technical delays, NASA’s decades-long push to return to the moon is finally about to get off the ground.

“The team is beyond excited,” says Cliff Lanham, an operations manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast, where Artemis 1 will launch. “We still have a few weeks of work to do, so we gotta temper that.”

Here’s what’s going on with the launch—and what has to happen first.

Last season: Learning from rehearsals

You might remember that, a few months ago, NASA had some issues with fuel leaks that called off test runs.

NASA engineers called those tests “wet-dress rehearsals” (WDR). They were what they sound like: placing the rocket on the pad and going through the motions of launch day. The WDRs’ other purpose was to suss out issues like those very leaks, which aren’t exactly uncommon with highly complex systems such as large rockets.

The WDRs are quietly very useful; workers at NASA use the results to write the checklist for the Artemis 1 launch. It’s perhaps not the most glamorous step of launch prep. But without these trials, the rocket launch likely couldn’t happen.

[Related: In pictures: NASA’s powerful moonshot rocket debuts at Kennedy Space Center]

After some tinkering, NASA held the final tests in June. Despite another fuel leak, engineers elected to call it there and end the tests, believing they could resolve the issues by returning the rocket to its assembly building for repairs.

One month to launch: Readying the rocket

Engineers still need to complete a few tasks before they can send Artemis 1 on its way.

A critical one is to charge up the rocket’s batteries, whose power SLS draws upon to control its components. But those batteries have a limited life, and engineers can’t fill them too early. Lanham says that charging those batteries is a careful balancing act of planning for an uncertain launch date.

Furthermore, although Artemis 1 won’t have any human crew, its Orion capsule will carry a trio of passengers: three mannequins, dummies that’ll test the elements human astronauts will face on their lunar journeys.

Already, the first of those has boarded. Its name is Moonikin Campos. It bears accelerometers and vibration sensors to test how rocky the ride will be, as well as detectors that measure radiation exposure on the lunar flightpath. Before the launch, two fake torsos will join, outfitted with test vests that future astronauts might wear in order to mitigate that radiation.

NASA will also load a Snoopy plushy—the zero-gravity indicator, which will float when the rocket is in space—and a Shaun the Sheep doll that’ll ride with the mannequins around the moon and back. 

One week to launch: Checking the calendar

NASA can’t just plop the 5.8-million-pound Artemis 1 on the pad at a whim. Many factors have to come together for a successful launch, and the rocket is only one of them. Earth, moon, and sun have to be in the right spots so the spacecraft’s flight maneuvers get it to the proper place. The sun is especially critical, because Artemis 1 is powered in part by solar panels.

NASA planners have identified three possible dates that fit the requirements: August 29, September 2, and September 5.

Selecting one of those dates will likely happen just days before launch. The US Navy, which recovers the fallen husks of discarded rocket stages, has to be ready. The pad, also used by SpaceX vehicles, has to be clear of other rockets. And the weather has to be cooperative. “We’re in hurricane season down here in Florida,” Lanham says.

[Related: This is why rocket launches always get delayed]

If none of those dates pan out, the next opportunities will come in late September or early October. If that again doesn’t work out, there’s another set of openings in late October. NASA officials hope it won’t come to that. Artemis would have to dodge a partial solar eclipse that could compromise its solar power.

After the launch: A lunar future

Artemis 1, if it’s successful, will refute that pattern. And Dreier says there’s good reason to be optimistic about this particular attempt. Despite the Artemis program’s ballooning costs, returning to the moon is a prospect that enjoys broad support in Washington that crosses political party lines and presidential administrations. They’ll no doubt be happy to see their support finally paying off.

Then, assuming Artemis 1 is successful, it will be just the first mission of a much larger list. “This is not really the culmination,” says Lanham. “It’s just the beginning.”

The timeline of the first crewed Artemis 2 mission—which will fly around the moon and return to Earth, much like Apollo 8—is still hazy, but current plans have it launching around 2024. After that would come the first human steps on lunar soil since 1972.

“The lunar landings have almost receded into myth at this point,” says Dreier. “For the first time, we have a real, viable chance at seeing humans walk on the moon again.”

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