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Two months at the south pole of the moon? Lovely at this time of year

Planet Business: Nasa’s lunar mission splashdown, SBF’s ‘house of cards’, Astro the Amazon home robot and an auction of ‘surplus’ Twitter assets

Image of the week: Lunar jaunt

“Folks, this is what mission success looks like,” declared Mike Safarin, project manager of Artemis, the Nasa moon programme that aims to return humans to the surface of our nearest, dearest and indeed only natural satellite from 2025.

On the 50th anniversary of the last time a man walked on the moon, the Artemis 1 Orion capsule splashed down off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California on Sunday, a “textbook” return achieved with just one day to spare before the world’s science journalists had their heads swivelled by a breakthrough on nuclear fusion.

With this 26-day test flight designed to test Orion’s heat shield, the mission was crewed only by three high-tech mannequins, who sadly produced no cover versions of David Bowie classics while off-planet. The intention is to eventually send a more diverse group of Earth-born astronauts, including the first woman and first person of colour, to the moon.

Unlike the moon mini-breaks of early Apollo missions, the “Artemis generation” – named after the Greek goddess of the moon – will spend up to two months in a lunar cabin at the proposed Artemis Base Camp near the south pole, on the basis that the terrestrial holiday rule of one week being too short, but two weeks a bit too long, does not apply to space.


In numbers: House of crypto


Pages in the criminal indictment against Sam Bankman-Fried – aka SBF – “unsealed” by US prosecutors in New York on Tuesday, shortly after the founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX was arrested in the Bahamas, bringing a swift end to a period of ignorance-pleading media interviews.


Criminal charges facing SBF, including wire fraud against customers and lenders. Prosecutors say the man previously hailed as a “crypto genius” lied from the start, building a house of cards based on deception as he used customer deposits to finance his political activities, invest in other companies and buy “lavish” properties.

$1.8 billion

Sum that FTX raised from equity investors since at least May 2019, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, while SBF promoted it as “a safe, responsible crypto asset trading platform”. This makes it one of the biggest financial frauds in US history.

Getting to know: Astro

Astro is Amazon’s cutesy, two-wheeled home assistant robot, widely described as an Alexa on wheels. Alas, both virtual assistant Alexa and the $1,000 ($939) limited-release Astro appear to be out in the cold somewhat at the tech giant. The company’s planned 10,000 job cuts began with an axe falling at its investment-sucking devices and services division amid suggestions that Andy Jassy, Amazon’s chief executive since July 2021, is less keen on hardware than predecessor Jeff Bezos.

This week, however, devices and services senior vice-president Dave Limp assured Bloomberg that Alexa devices were not being put away in a drawer, while there are more than 300,000 people on the invite list for Astro.

“We have a long-term hypothesis, open to debate, that somewhere down the road every household is gonna have some form of robot in it,” he said, while also musing that companies such as Amazon that take risks have to be prepared to clock up some “very public failures” too.

Sssh, Dave, Astro can hear you.

The list: Twitter office auction

After the rushed clear-out of employees, next on the agenda at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters is an online auction of its “surplus” office furniture, kitchen equipment and corporate paraphernalia, with 310 lots advertised for the two-day January event. So what’s on offer?

1. Digital whiteboards: Bidding starts at $50 for 55-inch Google Jamboard screens, ideal for those brainstorming sessions no one has any more.

2. Pizza and rotisserie ovens: The stainless-steel remnants of a once-functioning and well-fed company.

3. Giant logo: Why not remind yourself forever of the lifetime you have wasted on the bird app by bidding for a 41-inch-tall representation of Twitter’s blue bird logo?

4. An @-shape planter: Reminisce about replies from strangers, anonymous or otherwise, by claiming a giant @-shaped “sculpture planter” filled with artificial plants.

5. Coffee machines: So many espresso machines, so many coffee grinders – the superfluous apparatus of peak tech.