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NASA reveals plans for a base camp near the Moon's south pole

The space agency is ready to establish a base camp by 2024.

The Orion spacecraft seen during the Nasa Unveil event. The spacecraft is the first step in NASA's Artemis Lunar mission; aiming to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024.

Photo by Megan Jelinger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • NASA's Artemis program plans on establishing a base camp on the Moon as soon as 2024.
  • After testing technologies and securing resources on the surface of the Moon, NASA plans on exploring Mars.
  • A number of robotic missions will first establish the Gateway, the flight path between Earth and the Moon's south pole.

LinkedIn editors recently compiled an extensive round-up of companies hiring during the coronavirus pandemic. The list includes Instacart bringing in 300,000 contract workers, Walmart adding 150,000 workers in its distribution and fulfillment centers, and Lowe's seeking an additional 30,000 employees to fill current demand. Nearly all jobs on offer deal with supply chain management in some capacity. At the very end of the list is an outlier:

"SpaceX is hiring an unknown number of workers as it looks to ramp up production of its Starships."

While American corporations scramble to keep supplies moving (as well as potentially endangering workers accepting those jobs), Elon Musk is looking for an escape plan. Then again, the dream of inhabiting other planets and traveling to distant universes seems baked into the human imagination.

Musk isn't the only one dreaming of a galaxy far, far away. NASA's Artemis program, with the more humble goal of developing a consistent presence on the Earth's moon, is full steam—er, solar electric propulsion—ahead with its plan of setting up camp by 2024. The agency hopes to land the first woman on the Moon's surface that year, with the goal of "sustainable exploration" by 2028.

This news comes in the wake of a new 13-page report, "NASA's Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development." NASA believes that in the coming decades, the Moon will "be a source of new scientific advances and economic growth." Once camp is established there, the agency hopes to use the Moon as a launch pad for the next stage in space exploration.

As NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine commented on April 2:

"After 20 years of continuously living in low-Earth orbit, we're now ready for the next great challenge of space exploration – the development of a sustained presence on and around the Moon. For years to come, Artemis will serve as our North Star as we continue to work toward even greater exploration of the Moon, where we will demonstrate key elements needed for the first human mission to Mars."

The astronauts will face many hurdles trying to establish a camp near the Moon's south pole, such as radiation shielding, lunar dust, and extremely cold, long lunar nights. Once in place, these brave voyagers will test out new mobility technologies to help prepare humans for the next leap to Mars.

The report expresses interest in the development of relationships with private industry as well. While international partners are cited, there is an emphasis of America remaining at the forefront of space exploration:

"As other nations steadily increase their presence and spending, American leadership is now called for to lead the next phase of humanity's quest to create a future comprised of endless discovery and growth in the final frontier."

NASA goes so far to dub this the "Artemis Generation." The agency puts forward a three-domain exploration strategy to coincide with the timeline of this generation. The first is low-Earth orbit, which it wants to open up to commercial operations and for testing new technologies; the second is the Moon, with the goal of long-term robotic explorations "with robust commercial and international partnerships"; and finally, Mars, which by reading over the document amounts to the grand goal of stating, "America was here first."

Kicking off this project in 2023 with robots, NASA's ambitions include opening up "terrestrial robotic mining systems and next-generation power storage." The robots will hunt for oxygen and water, or, as they frame it, "extraction of usable resources." The more humans have at the ready, the easier the transition will be. The agency also believes that by intensively researching the Moon we will better understand the evolution of our own planet.

The first step is the development of the Gateway, the space travel path between Earth and the Moon. This requires numerous robot missions that establish a landing system in order to create a stable pathway for future astronauts to travel. There is political motive here as well: "The Gateway will establish U.S. leadership and a sustained presence in the region between the Moon and Earth."

Thus far, Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency have signed on as partners in the development of the Gateway. Russia has expressed interest in contributing an airlock. High priority items include a better understanding of heliophysics, radiation, and space weather. As the initial missions establish these conditions, the plan is to begin launching humans in four years' time.

Upon establishing the Artemis Base Camp at the south pole, astronauts will spend from one to two months in order to "develop new technologies that advance our national industries and discover new resources that will help grow our economy."

Though Mars (and beyond) is the long-term goal, the maximization of revenue seems to be the primary driver of this mission. Indefinite exploration of the Moon is in the plan, with the potential for commercial space travel. Besides, as NASA concludes, the moon is only "a relatively manageable 250,000 miles" away.

And yes, in case you were wondering, the "search for Martian life" is in there. Away we go.


Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

Live today! Unfiltered lessons of a female entrepreneur

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT today.

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Two-thirds of parents say technology makes parenting harder

Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.

Sex & Relationships
  • Today's parents believe parenting is harder now than 20 years ago.
  • A Pew Research Center survey found this belief stems from the new challenges and worries brought by technology.
  • With some schools going remote next year, many parents will need to adjust expectations and re-learn that measured screen usage won't harm their children.

Parents and guardians have always endured a tough road. They are the providers of an entire human being's subsistence. They keep that person feed, clothed, and bathe; They help them learn and invest in their enrichment and experiences; They also help them navigate social life in their early years, and they do all this with limited time and resources, while simultaneously balancing their own lives and careers.

Add to that a barrage of advice and reminders that they can always spend more money, dedicate more time, or flat-out do better, and it's no wonder that psychologists worry about parental burnout.

But is parenting harder today than it was, say, 20 years ago? The Pew Research Center asked more than 3,600 parents this question, and a majority (66 percent) believe the answer is yes. While some classic complaints made the list—a lack of discipline, a disrespectful generation, and the changing moral landscape—the most common reason cited was the impact of digital technology and social media.

A mixed response to technology

children using desktop computer

Parents worry that their children spend too much time in front of screens while also recognizing technologies educational benefits.

(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

This parental concern stems not only from the ubiquity of screens in children's lives, but the well-publicized relationship between screen time and child development. Headlines abound citing the pernicious effects screen time has on cognitive and language development. Professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, issue warnings that too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, lower grades, weight problems, mood problems, poor self-image, and the fear of missing out—to name a few!

According to Pew's research, parents—which Pew defines as an adult or guardian with at least one child under their care, though they may also have adult children—have taken these warnings to heart. While 84 percent of those surveyed are confident they know how much screen time is appropriate, 71 percent worry their child spends too much time in front of screens.

To counter this worry, most parents take the measured approach of setting limits on the length of time children can access screens. Others limit which technologies children have access to. A majority of parents (71 percent) view smartphones as potentially harmful to children. They believe the devices impair learning effective social skills, developing healthy friendships, or being creative. As a result, about the same percentage of parents believe children should be at least 12 years old before owning a smartphone or using social media.

But a deeper concern than screen time seems to be what content those screens can access. An overwhelming 98 percent of those surveyed say parents and guardians shouldered the responsibility of protecting children from inappropriate online content. Far less put the responsibility on tech companies (78 percent) or the government (65 percent).

Parents of young children say they check the websites and apps their children use and set parental controls to restrict access. A minority of parents admit to looking at call and text records, tracking their child's location with GPS, or following their child on social media.

Yet, parents also recognize the value of digital technology or, at least, have acquiesced to its omnipresence. The poster child for this dichotomy is YouTube, with its one billion hours played daily, many before children's eyes. Seventy-three percent of parents with young children are concerned that their child will encounter inappropriate content on the platform, and 46 percent say they already have. Yet, 80 percent still let their children watch videos, many letting them do so daily. Some reasons cited are that they can learn new things or be exposed to different cultures. The number one cited reason, however, is to keep children entertained.

For the Pew Research Center's complete report, check out "Parenting Children in the Age of Screens."

Screens, parents, and pandemics

Perhaps most troubling, Pew's survey was conducted in early March. That's before novel coronavirus spread wildly across the United States. Before shelter-in-place laws. Before schools shuttered their doors. Before desperate parents, who suddenly found themselves their child's only social and educational outlet, needed a digital lifeline to help them cope.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many parents to rely on e-learning platforms and YouTube to supplement their children's education—or just let the kids enjoy their umpteenth viewing of "Moana" so they can eke out a bit more work. With that increase in screen time comes a corresponding increase in guilt, anxiety, and frustration.

But are these concerns overblown?

As Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician and expert on children and the media at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told the New York Times, parents don't always need to view screen time as a negative. "Even the phrase 'screen time' itself is problematic. It reduces the debate to a black and white issue, when the reality is much more nuanced," Radesky said.

Radesky helped the American Academy of Pediatrics craft its statement about screen time use during the pandemic. While the AAP urges parents to preserve offline experiences and maintain limits, the organization acknowledges that children's media use will, by necessity, increase. To make it a supportive experience, the statement recommends parents make a plan with their children, be selective of the quality of media, and use social media to maintain connections together. It also encourages parents to adjust their expectations and notice their own technology use.

"We are trying to prevent parents from feeling like they are not meeting some sort of standard," Radesky said. "There is no science behind this right now. If you are looking for specific time limits, then I would say: Don't be on it all day."

This is good advice for parents, now and after the pandemic. While studies show that excessive screen time is deleterious, others show no harm from measured, metered use. For every fear that screens make our kids stupid, there's a study showing the kids are all right. If we maintain realistic standards and learn to weigh quality and quantity within those standards, maybe parenting in the digital age won't seem so darn difficult.

How meditation can change your life and mind

Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.

  • There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
  • "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
  • "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
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