California’s only nuclear power plant, which sits near fault lines, will remain open after it was initially slated for closure as the state continues to battle scorching temperatures and an uncertain electrical grid.
On Thursday, the California Legislature, by a 69-3 vote in the Assembly and a 31-1 vote in the Senate, approved an additional five-year plan to keep Diablo Canyon, the state’s single largest source of electricity, open and continuing to operate. Monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the plant was originally licensed to operate until 2025 but will now remain open into 2030.
The group Save Clean Energy, which has fought to keep Diablo Canyon open, is cheering the Legislature’s decision.
“Maintaining operations at Diablo Canyon will keep our power on while preventing millions of tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere,” Isabelle Boemeke of Save Clean Energy told NPR. “This is a true win-win for the people of California and our planet.”
NPR reported in 2016, though, that foes of the plant have cited its location near fault lines as a safety concern.
In 2018, the state pledged to be completely reliant on clean energy sources by 2045. Nuclear is a zero-emission clean energy source, but creating a system capable of handling the energy demands of Californians may be a difficult task. Recently, California has been hit with sweltering temperatures that Governor Gavin Newsom said put “significant demand” on the state’s energy grid.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), an electrical corporation in the county of San Luis Obispo, operates the plant’s two nuclear units that have been in place since 1985. Diablo Canyon’s website says that the two units “produce 18,000 gigawatt-hours of clean and reliable electricity annually,” enough to serve almost 10 percent of the state’s energy portfolio.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Diablo Canyon generated 6 percent of California’s electricity in 2021. The bill passed on Thursday includes a $1.4 billion forgivable loan to PG&E for the continued operation of the plant, which PG&E had agreed to close in part due to earthquake-related safety concerns.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California pushed for state lawmakers to keep the plant open in cohesion with the development of renewable energy sources, saying in a tweet that the state’s energy system “depends on the extended operation of Diablo Canyon.”
“In August 2020, extreme heat led to electricity shortages and the first rolling blackouts in the state since the 2001 energy crisis,” Feinstein wrote in an August 30 letter to state lawmakers. “The consequences would have been even more severe without the electricity from Diablo Canyon. State regulators have projected similar shortfalls and outages during periods of peak demand in the coming years, and retiring a major electricity generation source without adequate preparation will only leave the grid more vulnerable.”
Newsweek reached out to Newsom and PG&E for comment.
Working with Danny DeVito and his family on Little Demon was “wonderful,”Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner and Kieran Valla,the show’s creators, told Newsweek.
The FXX animated series sees DeVito portray Satan while his real-life daughter Lucy takes on the role of Chrissy (Satan’s daughter), and his son Jake is an executive producer on the show. Even DeVito’s wife, Rhea Perlman, is a guest star for the show’s first season.
Little Demon centers on 13-year-old Chrissy, who discovers her real father after she comes into her own powers as Satan’s child, a.k.a. the Antichrist. But even though Satan is keen for her to join the family business, her mother Laura (Aubrey Plaza) will protect her at all costs.
For Fowler, Kirschner and Valla, the DeVitos were such a key part in getting the show made that they felt like family by the end of production—an “insane, crazy family,” Valla joked.
Little Demon Creators on Joining DeVito Family and Show’s Guests Stars
Fowler, Kirschner and Valla created the show because they were keen to make a “Rosemary’s Baby subversion” and write a story in which a woman had a cursed womb. Then it evolved into the show as it is today, with a focus on a mother (Laura) giving birth to the Antichrist (Chrissy) and then skipping to her teenage years when she discovers her powers.
Valla said: “At first, when we came up with it, the girl started even younger, she was five years old, and then we kept at it. We’re like, ‘Okay 13,’ right in the center of junior high [and] middle school, is the perfect age because it’s the most thematically rich area to explore.
“And then we kind of clocked onto the core of the show from there, which was the mother-daughter relationship, and then this custody battle triangle that kind of exists [between Laura, Chrissy and Satan].”
“We’re all big horror nerds,” Fowler added. “So we knew we wanted to do a show that was horror-based and also comedic. And just to go off what Kieran said, 13 years old is a horrific time. With the mother-daughter relationship, also, you know, as a 13-year-old girl and her mother, there’s so much horror only from that.”
Kirschner explained that he and his fellow creators always had Plaza in mind to play Laura because they’d worked together with the Parks and Recreation star in the past, as they had also done with Lucy DeVito.
“We’ve known [Aubrey] for many, many years, and then there this moment of like, ‘Oh, obviously getting Lucy involved with this would be such a really smart idea,’ and she just made so much sense to voice Chrissy,” Kirschner said.
“Once they started getting involved luckily Danny was very much on board because he loved the idea of he gets to play the devil, and he gets to work with his daughter and that’s just such an incredible relationship.
“The two of them are just really, really wonderful together, and recording them together has been a dream. I mean, they really do have that perfect father-daughter dynamic. It hopefully is resonant in the show as well.
“But the whole DeVito group, they’re just such sweet, wonderful, smart people that immediately latched onto the idea and then helped us develop the show, and then eventually got [Little Demon executive producer] Dan Harmon involved. They [were] just such a gift along the way.”
He continued: “Jake has really been so incredibly helpful as a producer and having this great outside view and perspective.
“I mean they all have such great perspectives on the show, but Jake has really also been pushing this along so strongly. He’s been such a great force in this. I guess now it’s like a weird family that we’ve all formed. So maybe we’re part of the DeVito family, I don’t know.”
“They make us feel that way, they really do,” Valla added. And of DeVito, he said: “[Danny’s] brilliant, he’s amazing. He’s the sweetest person too, he’s just a great person and he’s been just wonderful to work with.
“It’s been a crazy dream. It’s been crazy working with Danny DeVito. It’s outstanding, we’re always pinching ourselves. He’s just the sweetest guy.”
On Pushing the Boundaries With Animation
Little Demon is not afraid to push the boundaries by featuring violence, nudity, and also frank depictions of Chrissy having her first period.
Of this, Valla said: “I think, for us, anytime we go to make something we just set out to make the show that we want to make, and not really shying away from what we want to do and what is the best way we can create what we want to create.
“And I think the animated space, what we found is that it does allow us to maybe push more boundaries and show more and do more than we’d be able to in the live-action space. But yeah, that was never really a thought for us as we went through it, I suppose because we just wrote the show that we feel like, ‘Okay, this is the best version of this show.’
“But in retrospect, I think working within the animated space it has definitely allowed that in terms of what we’ve been able to do and put on television.”
Reflecting on a scene in which Laura gets nude to travel to Satan’s realm, Fowler added: “We did not set up to be like, ‘We have this strong woman character and we’re gonna make sure she gets nude in a scene.’
“I remember us and Dan Harmon all brainstorming together, this character has to go into the metaphysical realm, how? Just checking the rules of how you get into the metaphysical realm, and there’s no way you can bring any clothes with you.
“It was like, ‘Oh, I guess she will have to get naked’ and it was really cool. She has a billion awesome tattoos, all that mean something specific. So we got excited about that, too.”
One thing the trio were keen to do was to make sure Laura was a character who could hold her own not only as a demon slayer but also as a single parent.
Fowler shared: “I think something that we often don’t see, definitely non-animation, is a mother of any kind struggling with the role of motherhood and what she’s supposed to be, and also just exploring a woman who has a lot of darkness in her.
“I think we also got really excited about just exploring a woman who was so badass like John Wick is. Like Sarah Connor, who can just kill like John killed three men with whatever her form of the pencil would be.
“So we just got really excited that we kind of molded her into this very complex, strong, funny woman and watching a woman who has been on the run for 13 years and for the first time has to really settle into suburbia with her daughter, and navigate this world that she’s so foreign to. We have so many seasons that we can mine from her character.”
Valla added: “One thing we really want to do is not shy away from exploring the messiness of all that, the messiness to that mother-daughter relationship. Laura has so many strengths and she’s a deeply flawed character. I feel like a lot of times with female characters I feel like they don’t get that opportunity in the same way that male characters do, to like really do those explorations into their flaws.
“What we love about her is she is such a strong, loving mom despite all of her flaws and it’s kind of that battle every day within herself to be the best mom she can be while also navigating the insanity of the world around her.”
Kirschner explained that Plaza added a lot to her character and was “really helpful” to the trio during the process of creating the show.
“Aubrey has been really, really helpful with pushing forward this character, this type of character, and also she has been really wanting to lean into the blue steel of her character so much.
“She’s so smart and so funny, she has such a good perspective on the show and the character and also just in general, but we pulled some stuff from her, her as herself, because we want to just find those interesting nuances of someone that would be like an Aubrey character within this world that we’ve created, so she’s been just a terrific help.”
On the Show’s ‘Amazing’ Guest Stars
As well as its stellar main cast, Little Demon has some very famous faces lending their voices to the show.
“You’ll see some amazing stars, like you’ll get Sam Richardson, Dave Bautista, Shangela, Lamorne Morris, and if you stay long enough you might just get to hear Mel Brooks,” Kirschner teased.
DeVito ensured he was on hand to help with several of the episodes that feature guest stars, with Fowler naming Sam Richardson’s episode as the most interesting recording session for the cast and crew.
“The Sam Richardson one was so funny because none of us, including Sam Richardson, knew that Danny was coming on. And so we were recording with him, and suddenly out of nowhere Danny’s face just appears on Zoom.
“He’s like, ‘Hey Sam,’ and Sam Richardson was like, ‘Oh, hey Danny.’ You never when Danny is going to surprise [you].”
Valla added: “One other really funny combination is we had Eugene Cordero and Danny together, which was very funny to watch that dynamic.
“They have a plot together in a [later] episode that was great, and then we’ve also had Aubrey and Lennon Parham [who voices Laura’s neighbor Darlene], and they did improv together back at UCB. So seeing them be able to work together again in that format was great.”
Little Demon airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FXX and streams the next day on Hulu.
One student was killed and two other people were injured following a stabbing attack at a high school in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Thursday, law enforcement officials said.
During a press conference Thursday morning, Jacksonville’s chief of police and public safety director, Mike Yaniero, said that at around 7 a.m. a school resource officer at Northside High School called police for assistance following a report of a “physical altercation between students on campus that resulted in the stabbing of two victims.” The attack occurred in one of the school’s common areas.
Yaniero said that a school resource officer was able to respond to the incident within 20 seconds and take an individual into custody. The two stabbing victims, both minors, were taken to a hospital and provided with emergency care. However, one of the victims succumbed to their injuries, Yaniero said.
Yaniero added that he believes a teacher was injured during the incident but wasn’t stabbed.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this tragedy. This is an active and ongoing investigation, we expect to release more information as it becomes available,” the police chief said.
Barry Collins, the superintendent of the Onslow County Schools, said that the high school went into a lockdown following the incident and that students were released from the school at around 9 a.m.
“I do believe that our staff has worked with them to come out of that lockdown because there is no imminent danger at this point,” Collins said.
The superintendent noted that the school will resume in-person instruction on Tuesday, and conduct virtual instruction on Friday.
Newsweek has reached out to the Jacksonville Police Department for additional information.
In a separate incident last week, officials in Greenwood, Indiana, said that a student was shot and killed at a bus stop. The shooting prompted several schools in the area to go into lockdown on Thursday morning. The Greenwood Police Department called the shooting an “isolated incident” and believed that “the victim was specifically targeted.”
During an incident in Mount Vernon, New York, in April, a fatal stabbing at a basketball parade led to the arrest of a 15-year-old student. Two teenage girls were stabbed at the time, with one succumbing to her injuries.
Last month, a 15-year-old student was arrested in Germany after she set off an anti-attack spray in a museum during a school trip. After the release of the spray, 27 people had to be taken to the hospital and 30 had to receive treatment at the building.
USA Hockey star Hilary Knight set the IIHF women’s world championships career scoring record in the Americans’ 12-1 win over Hungary on Thursday in Herning, Denmark.
Knight, 33, had a goal and an assist in the victory, giving her 87 career points at worlds. That surpasses the career total of Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser, a Hockey Hall of Fame forward who is now assistant general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Knight earned the primary assist on Hannah Bilka’s second-period goal and then scored a goal three minutes into the third period for the record. Setting the career mark on a goal was only appropriate for the American star, who also holds the women’s world championship career goals record with 50.
She was honored after the game in a ceremony.
Knight’s record chase was interrupted twice in the past two games by score sheet errors that were subsequently corrected. In Team USA’s preliminary round win over Canada, Knight had an assist credited to her taken away. Against Hungary, it appeared she had broken the record in the second period but had an assist taken away on a scoring change. But the goal clinched it, making Knight the greatest scorer in women’s world championship history.
Knight, who serves as an analyst for ESPN, has four goals and three assists in five tournament games.
An asteroid named Asteroid 2022 QB2 is heading for Earth today at a staggering speed of 57060 kmph. Will it miss the planet? Read on to find out.
August’s trend of asteroid flybys has continued into the month of September. 3 asteroids have been expected to fly past Earth closely today. These asteroids, named Asteroid 2022 QQT7, Asteroid 2021 CQ5 and Asteroid 2022 QB2, will fly past Earth at blistering speeds. Fortunately, these asteroids will miss the Earth by a few million kilometers. According to scientists, this asteroid could cause massive damage on Earth if it deviates from its orbit due to the pull of Earth’s gravitational field. Here’s what we know about Asteroid 2022 QB2.
The Asteroid 2022 QB2 is already on its way towards Earth. It is travelling at a staggering speed of 57,060 kilometers per hour. According to NASA, the Asteroid 2022 QB2 is nearly as big as an aeroplane, with a width of almost 100 feet, easily making it the largest of the 3 asteroids which will fly past the planet today. It will make its closest approach to Earth today, September 1, at a distance of nearly 3.94 million kilometers.
If this asteroid was on a collision course with Earth, it would cause global catastrophe. However, NASA is preparing a strategy to defend the planet against asteroid threats. NASA’s DART Mission, launched in November 2021, is getting ready to impact this month with its target asteroid Dimorphos on September 26. This test will help scientists gain greater knowledge as to what happens when a craft is crashed against a space rock. This knowledge will be used if an actual asteroid threatens to crash against the Earth.
Although the collision will take place seven million miles away, NASA has sent a smaller spacecraft with a camera that will record the entire event. The crash landing is going to take place on September 26 at 4:44 AM IST (7:14 PM ET). The livestream will begin at 3:30 AM IST (6 PM ET). To watch it, you can go to NASA’s official website, YouTube channel as well as Facebook and Twitter.
The escalating friction between Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party spiked today with VK Saxena accusing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of “diversionary tactics and false accusations”. Caught in a tussle over the excise policy, AAP had accused the Lieutenant Governor of being involved in corruption during demonetisation.
“I called for good governance, zero tolerance to corruption and better services for the people of Delhi. But unfortunately Hon’ble CM @ArvindKejriwal Ji in desperation has resorted to diversionary tactics and false accusations,” read a short statement tweeted by the LG.
Mr Saxena, who has already promised a defamation suit against AAP leaders, said he would not be surprised if “more such baseless personal attacks” were made on him and his family in the coming days”.
I called for good governance, zero tolerance to corruption and better services for the people of Delhi.
The LG, AAP alleged, had changed banned currency notes worth Rs 1,400 crore as the chairman of a government Khadi body.
The relation between AAP and the Lieutenant Governor, who took charge in May, had started on a stormy note, with Mr Saxena refusing to give clearance for the Singapore visit to Mr Kejriwal.
It hit a new low after Mr Saxena sought a report from state officials on the excise policy, denounced it and gave clearance for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
AAP hit back, accusing Mr Saxena of corruption during his tenure as the chairman of Khadi and Village Industries Commission and demanded a CBI probe into it.
AAP leaders claimed that Rs 22 lakh got exchanged in the Khadi’s Delhi branch alone and calculated that the scam could involve Rs 1400 crore as there are 7,000 branches across the country.
Mr Saxena today underscored that he cannot be stopped from discharging his duties.
“He (Kejriwal) should know that I will under no circumstances whatsoever be deterred from my constitutional duties. My commitment to improving the lives of the people of Delhi remains unwavering,” he said in the statement.
For Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, it’s alliance dharma versus his prime ministerial ambitions in 2024. As his new sarkar with deputy Tejashwi Yadav faced the first major hurdle with Kartik Kumar being removed as law minister and ultimately resigning from the cabinet, it seems only a ‘compromise’ within the alliance can save the Mahagathbandhan government in Bihar.
It was a span of less than 24 hours in which Kartik Kumar was removed from his post and demoted to sugarcane minister before he finally quit the cabinet.
In an exclusive conversation with CNN-News18, Kartik Kumar revealed that he decided to resign as he was “fed up of debates on TV every day”. “The BJP had too many problems with me so I decided that once I get a clean chit, only then will I take any responsibility in the government,” he said.
Asked if his portfolio was changed because he had to appear before court in a kidnapping case, the former law minister said whatever the reason may be, the “party is top priority”.
“I will work for the party and will answer those who are criticising me. [Portfolio change] has nothing to do with court. Media is reporting one-sided news and this has led to negative campaigning. So, it is my duty to clear all confusion and only then I will see what needs to be done,” he said.
Kartik Kumar also rubbished allegations that Tejashwi Yadav was unhappy with him, saying the deputy chief minister never opposed his minister-ship “otherwise I wouldn’t have become a minister twice”. “Because of me, the party’s image is tarnished and some are campaigning against me so I resigned,” he reiterated.
Kartik Kumar’s resignation gave the much-needed ammunition to the BJP, with leaders such as Amit Malviya and Sushil Modi attacking the JD(U)-RJD combine on Twitter. “Kartikeya Singh seems to have more self-respect than Nitish Kumar,” Malviya tweeted, while Sushil Modi said: “Nitish Kumar is clean bowled in the first over. Kartik Kumar is the first wicket down, many are in line.”
Sign of early trouble between new allies?
RJD sources had said Kartik Kumar holding the law portfolio would not send across the right message as an arrest warrant was pending against him in the 2014 kidnapping case. Before this, Nitish Kumar, who has been vouching for his ‘Sushasan Babu’ image, was already in a huddle with ally RJD over the ‘Jungle Raj’ image. Recent ADR reports reveal that of 17 ministers from RJD, 15 (88 per cent) have declared criminal charges against them. The report also suggests that criminal cases are pending against 23 MLAs.
For the Mahagathbandhan, it has been a rocky start. Within a week of forming the new government, heinous crimes reported in several districts have raised questions over the law-and-order situation in the state. To add to Nitish Kumar’s headache, four ministers hit headlines, for all the wrong reasons.
It started with Environment Minister Tej Pratap Yadav being seen with his brother-in-law in a departmental meeting. Agriculture Minister Sudhakar Singh is facing charges in the 2013 rice scam, while Food and Consumer Department Minister Leshi Singh had to bear the brunt of her own party MLA Bima Bharti, who accused the minister of extortion and murder. In the fourth instance, Cooperative Minister Surendra Yadav has been charge-sheeted by a POCSO court in Gaya.
Apart from these, there are several other tainted ministers in the cabinet who will become a worry for Nitish Kumar at a time when he is trying to project himself as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2024 polls.
On his part, Tejashwi Yadav has been trying hard to change the image of the party — given that many from the 90s remember the RJD as being synonymous with jungle raj. The deputy chief minister is enthusiastic about bringing development to Bihar, providing employment to the desperate youth of the state and working for all sections of society.
Nitish Kumar, at least in optics, is extending his support to the 32-year-old new generation deputy CM, who is also the younger son of Lalu Prasad.
As the new government faces political turmoil at the nascent stage of its inception, it will be interesting to see how the new allies gel with each other and if Nitish Kumar’s gamble of tossing old ally BJP for the RJD helps further his prime ministerial dreams.
Lenovo has launched the ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) folding laptop ahead of IFA 2022. This device has a 16.3-inch folding OLED screen that turns into two 12-inch displays when folded. It is powered by 12th Gen Intel Core U9 i5 and i7 processors. The laptop also features 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 1TB of PCIe Gen 4 SSD storage.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) price and availability
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) pricing starts at $2,499 (roughly Rs 1,98,600). The newly launched foldable laptop will be available to purchase in the US Market, starting November 2022, in a single performance Black colour option. The company is yet to announce the release date for other markets, including India.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) specifications
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) features a 16.3-inch OLED display with a 2024X2560 pixels resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio, 100 percent DCI-P3 colour gamut coverage, along with Dolby Vision playback support. When folded, the laptop gives access to two 12-inch displays. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) features a peak brightness level of 600 nits, claims the company.
The touchscreen is surrounded by 8mm bezels, according to the company. It also features support for the Lenovo Precious Pen and Precious Pen 2. The stylus can be attached magnetically to the foldable laptop.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) runs on Windows 11 out-of-the-box. It is powered by up to 12th Gen Intel Core U9 i5 and i7 processors. In terms of graphics, it has Intel Iris Xe graphics. It is packed with up to 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 1TB of PCIe Gen 4 SSD storage. The laptop also features a 5 MP IR webcam for video conferencing with an optional Intel Visual Sense controller.
When unfolded, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) measures 8.6mm and 7.4mm when folded. The laptop weighs about 1.28kg without the stand and keyboard, and 1.9kg with the stand and keyboard, according to the company.
The laptop is equipped with a 48Whr battery with 65W fast charging support. The company also claims that 30 minutes of charge can offer up to 4 hours of battery life.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2022) comes with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 port and a nano-SIM card slot. It features Wi-Fi 6E and 5G connectivity along with Bluetooth 5.2 support. The company also offers a full-size backlit Bluetooth keyboard with Haptic TouchPad and TrackPoint.
During this foot march, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leaders said, will “listen a lot and speak less”.
Congress’s Rahul Gandhi will walk all the way from Kanyakumari to Kashmir during the 148-day Bharat Jodo Yatra and sleep in a shipping container cabin at night, the Congress has said.
The container cabins are expected to arrive in Kanyakumari by September 5. The 3500-km yatra will be flagged off from Kanyakumari on September 7 with a massive public rally.
The party — which has been on a downward spiral since its defeat to the BJP in 2014 — has planned the march as a massive mass contact exercise ahead of the 2024 general elections.
Leaders of the Congress, however, denied any political angle and insisted that the yatra “is meant for peace and not divide”.
During this foot march, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leaders said, will “listen a lot and speak less”.
Mr Gandhi, along with his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, is currently abroad. They have visited Mrs Gandhi’s hometown in Italy, where her mother died this weekend.
Congress spokesperson Dr Shama Mohamed told NDTV that Rahul Gandhi will stay in these containers all through the padyatra.
“The planning began as early as four months ago. It is a peace yatra to get back our diverse India without the hatred when the ruling dispensation divides and subverts democracy in state after,” the spokesperson said.
At a press conference earlier today, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said the march will start on the morning of September 8. The participants will walk for 6 to 7 hours every day and “hold mass contact with people across the country,” he said.
Marches will be organised from 7 am to 10 am in each assembly constituency across the country to coincide with the yatra.
Chief Minister MK Stalin, whose DMK is an ally of the Congress, will be present at the launch of the Bharat Jodo yatra, sources said. The march also comes amid preparations for the party’s organisational elections.
The Congress has said it will release a list of voters following demand by senior leaders Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tiwari and Karti Chidambaram. All contestants would be given the list but it will not be shared on the website, the party has said.
Carbon dioxide is being converted into oxygen on Mars thanks to an invention undergoing testing that could lead to the colonization of the red planet.
Day and night across the seasons, a lunchbox-sized instrument generates breathable gas from Mars’s thin atmosphere. In several experimental runs, it reached its target of producing 6 grams of oxygen per hour–about the rate of an average tree on Earth.
The breakthrough opens the door to establishing farms on a world 100 million miles away–mirroring the plot of the Hollywood blockbuster The Martian. Local production will boost future missions. They are also essential for future human settlements. Pioneers would be able to cultivate crops–just like Matt Damon’s stranded character Mark Watney.
The MIT-led Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) has been successfully making oxygen from the CO2-rich atmosphere since February 2021.
Deputy principal investigator Professor Jeffrey Hoffman said: “This is the first demonstration of actually using resources on the surface of another planetary body, and transforming them chemically into something that would be useful for a human mission. It’s historic in that sense.”
MOXIE touched down as part of NASA‘s Perseverance rover mission. It was able to produce oxygen in a variety of atmospheric conditions.
It opens the door to sending a scaled-up version ahead of a human mission to continuously produce oxygen–at the rate of several hundred trees. At that capacity, the system should generate enough oxygen to both sustain humans once they arrive, and fuel a rocket for returning astronauts back to Earth. So far, MOXIE’s steady output is a promising first step toward that goal.
Principal investigator Dr. Michael Hecht said: “We have learned a tremendous amount that will inform future systems at a larger scale.”
Harvesting and using a planet’s materials, such as CO2, to make oxygen or other resources that would otherwise have to be transported is known as “in-situ resource utilization.” The prototype is small by design, in order to fit aboard Perseverance, and is built for short periods, starting up and shutting down with each run, depending on the rover’s exploration schedule and mission responsibilities.
In contrast, a full-scale oxygen factory would include larger units that would ideally run continuously. Despite the necessary compromises in the current design, the instrument has shown it can reliably and efficiently convert Mars’ atmosphere into pure oxygen.
It does so by first drawing the Martian air in through a filter that cleans it of contaminants. The air is then pressurized and sent through the Solid Oxide Electrolyzer (SOXE), an instrument developed and built by OxEon Energy, that electrochemically splits the carbon dioxide-rich air into oxygen ions and carbon monoxide.
The oxygen ions are then isolated and recombined to form breathable, molecular oxygen, or O2, which MOXIE then measures for quantity and purity before releasing it harmlessly back into the air, along with carbon monoxide and other atmospheric gases.
Since the rover’s landing, MOXIE engineers have started up the instrument seven times throughout the Martian year, each time taking a few hours to warm up, then another hour to make oxygen before powering back down. Each run was scheduled for a different time of day or night, and in different seasons, to see whether MOXIE could accommodate shifts in the planet’s atmospheric conditions.
Prof. Hoffman said: “The atmosphere of Mars is far more variable than Earth. The density of the air can vary by a factor of two through the year, and the temperature can vary by 100 degrees. One objective is to show we can run in all seasons.”
So far, MOXIE has shown that it can make oxygen at almost any time of the Martian day and year. Dr. Hecht said: “The only thing we have not demonstrated is running at dawn or dusk when the temperature is changing substantially. We do have an ace up our sleeve that will let us do that, and once we test that in the lab, we can reach that last milestone to show we can really run any time.”
As MOXIE continues to churn out oxygen, engineers plan to push its capacity, and increase production, particularly in the Martian spring, when atmospheric density and carbon dioxide levels are high.
Dr. Hecht said: “The next run coming up will be during the highest density of the year, and we just want to make as much oxygen as we can. So we will set everything as high as we dare, and let it run as long as we can.”
They will also monitor the system for signs of wear and tear. MOXIE is just one experiment among several aboard Perseverance. It cannot run continuously as a full-scale system would. Instead, it must start up and shut down with each run–thermal stress that can degrade the instrument over time.
If MOXIE can operate successfully despite repeatedly turning on and off, this would suggest that a full-scale system, designed to run continuously, could do so for thousands of hours. Prof. Hoffman said: “To support a human mission to Mars, we have to bring a lot of stuff from Earth, like computers, spacesuits, and habitats. But dumb old oxygen? If you can make it there, go for it–you are way ahead of the game.”
The study was part funded by NASA. Last week Portuguese scientists came up with a plasma-based method to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Generating products on Mars by harnessing and processing local resources will be vital. Transporting them is simply not an option.
Oxygen is key to creating a breathable environment. It is also the starting point for farms on Mars–opening the door to “resource independence” from Earth. NASA and Elon Musk‘s SpaceX are committed to sending people to our neighboring world in the near future. But the logistical challenges are huge.