The countdown to the first stage of humanity’s return to the Moon has begun. The countdown to Artemis 1 began Saturday morning, and if all goes well, the uncrewed Orion spacecraft atop Space Launch Systems (SLS) giant thruster will lift off from legendary Pad 39B at Cape Canaveral on Monday, August 29 at 8:33 a.m. EDT (12:33 p.m. GMT). The mission is should last about 42 days, which seems long considering that the longest manned Apollo missions lasted only about 12 days. But, without the constraint of stockpiling enough consumables for a crew, Artemis is free to take the scenic route to the Moon, so to speak. Whatever your stance on manned space exploration, it’s hard to deny that launching a rocket as big as the SLS is exciting stuff. After all, it’s been 50 years since anything as powerful as the SLS headed into space, and it’s an event that expected to attract 100,000 people to watch it in person. We will have to stick to the NASA live stream ourselves; having seen a space shuttle launch in person in 1990, we cannot express how much we envy anyone who has the opportunity to experience this launch up close.
Speaking of space, there are some interesting results from the James Webb Space Telescope this week, with the announcement of the first unambiguous detection of carbon dioxide on an exoplanet. The planet, named WASP-39b, was discovered in 2011. It lies about 700 light-years away in the constellation Virgo and is classified as a “hot Jupiter” planet, which is a gas giant that orbits near its star. After being discovered by ground-based telescopes, the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes examined it and found signatures of water vapor in its atmosphere, in addition to sodium and potassium. Then Webb had a turn, and his ultra-cold infrared optics saw that the planet’s atmosphere strongly absorbs light from its star in the range of 4.1 to 4.6 microns – just where CO2 would absorb. As exciting as a scientific result is, it’s also a technical triumph that teases exactly what this telescope is capable of.
A few months back, we featured a story about Apple’s new attempt to appease the “right to repair” crowd by making the tools and materials needed to perform repairs on some of the products available. When discussing this on the podcast that week, we called it a case of “malicious compliance” on Apple’s part. But after reading this article about MacBook self-repair, it seems that the huge tool kit they rent out and the extortionate prices for simple parts like batteries might have a different, more basic origin – the design conflict between user-friendliness and serviceability. Apple has a brand – sleek, polished, user-friendly and undeniably tactile – and that’s what all of its designs should be. If that means you have to glue parts together to avoid visible fasteners, so be it. Maintaining that mark means making any of their products easy to take apart has to take precedence over style, and that’s why it takes so many specialist tools to get the job done. You can – and should – dispute the price of Apple replacement parts, but for the most part, these devices are complicated to repair precisely because they are Apple products. In other words, if you want reasonable access to your devices, you might want to avoid the Apple ecosystem.
And finally, when your device is not repairable at all, what do you do? If it’s still under warranty, you usually send it back for a replacement, after checking all the usual customer service boxes. But a customer in Germany with a faulty SSD had one more box to check — complete and total mechanical destruction of the SSD. In order to return the Samsung 980 PRO SSD, the customer was asked to drill holes in the NAND flash or smash it with a hammer. Presumably this was done for privacy reasons, but the fact that they asked for video proof of the procedure seems a little odd. The snuff movie, with the weapon of choice being an angle grinder, is below – the destruction begins at around 5 minutes.