Thursday Throughput: Artemis Delayed Edition

[ThTh1] I had hoped that I would be writing this week about the successful launch of the Artemis program. However, after a fuel leak, it looks like the program will be delayed for another month. NASA will have a press conference today to discuss the future of the mission.

The program, started by President Bush as Constellation, cancelled by President Obama and then resurrected by President Trump as Artemis, has been somewhat contentious. It has fallen behind schedule. The SLS launch system will cost at least $2 billion per launch. Other proposals would be quicker and cheaper. But, the money having already been spent and the rocket having already built, having a successful launch would be something for the taxpayers to enjoy.

I am very positive on returning to the moon, this time for good. The potential benefits to science, technology and space exploration are profound. We seem to have lost some of our national will to do bold things. Hopefully, a successful Artemis mission — in combination with the great strides being made in private space exploration — will help light that fire again.

[ThTh2] One thing I’ve done in the occasional Intro Astro class is have student track the sunset over the course of the semester. We don’t often appreciate how the Sun waxes high in the sky in summer and low in the winter. Here’s a good demonstration of this phenomenon.

[ThTh3] This week in JWST news: absolutely stunning images of the Tarantula Nebula. The nebula — also known as 30 Doradus — is one of the most active regions of star formation in the local universe and hosts what may be the largest star in the nearest few million light years.

[ThTh4] Oh … and we found carbon dioxide in an exoplanet atmosphere.

[ThTh5] RIP, Frank Drake.

[ThTh6] The Midwest is growing so much corn, you can see it from space.

[ThTh7] Great news. The Green Bank Observatory will continue its amazing work.

[ThTh8] And speaking of West Virginians …

People will sometimes tell you that internet friends are not the same as “real” friends. I find that phrasing curious since many of my friends I’ve made in real life have become “internet friends”. There are people I haven’t seen in person in years (especially with the pandemic) and communicate mostly through e-mail or social media. But they are no less friends than they were when I went to school with them or grew up with them or drank irresponsible amounts of gin with them. I can’t be there for them if they have an emergency, yes. But I can share their lives, trade the occasional quip and let them know that I haven’t forgotten about them.

Only a few times before had I met with people I got to know online. But meeting some of the Ordinary Times writers in person last weekend was … well, as Em said, like meeting old friends I hadn’t seen in many years. Some were who I expected them to be; some were a bit of a surprise. But all of them now have a face and a voice to go with their online avatars.

The expansion of our social circles to the online has not diminished us. Nor has it erased the importance of in-person interaction. What it has done is allowed for a little more human interaction in our busy hectic lives. What is had done is allowed people to not feel isolated in a society that can be fragmented. What it has done is introduced us to people we might have never have met in a million years. And for all the problems that social media and online interactions bring with them, I am grateful for the gifts that they sometimes deliver.

Thursday Throughput: Artemis Delayed Edition