NASA's Artemis 1 unmanned mission successfully launched on November 16, sending the Orion spacecraft to the moon. There are no astronauts aboard the ship - the next manned mission is scheduled only for 2025. But that doesn't mean the ship flew empty. There are some unexpected and interesting things on board.
Let's try to find out what exactly scientists sent to the moon - and, most importantly, why.
The virtual assistant Alexa from Amazon has been used on Earth for more than 10 years, controlling various devices such as speakers, phones, and home appliances. Based on it, they have created a virtual assistant Callisto, which will work in space.
According to space.com, Callisto was specifically created to work with Cisco Webex video conferencing software, integrating voice technology, video, and artificial intelligence aboard the Orion spacecraft. According to scientists, the technology could be used in the future by astronauts in deep space exploration.
Snoopy toy dog serves as an indicator of weightlessness on the Orion spacecraft.
Astronauts often take small toys with them on flights that tell them they are already weightless. There are no astronauts on this flight, but the doggy ended up in the capsule anyway.
The four LEGO minifigures aboard Orion depict NASA astronauts, while a team of six LEGO ground controllers supports the group in space.
The characters Kate and Kyle from LEGO Education's SPIKE Prime system and Julia and Sebastian from the LEGO City toy line are now flying to the moon. All four figures are featured in the Build to Launch: STEAM Exploration Series, which includes 10 weeks of digital content about space and science on the LEGO Education website.
Another toy passenger aboard is Shaun the Sheep. Exactly what role he performs on the ship is unknown.
The three dummies aboard the ship (more precisely, two regular dummies and one "moonikin") will show how dangerous it can be for astronauts to go beyond the Van Allen radiation belts, which protect the Earth's lower orbits from radiation.
Astronauts become vulnerable to cosmic rays from deep space when they reach high Earth orbit and beyond, but there is still not enough information about these risks.
All three dummies are equipped with 5,600 sensors to measure radiation, and one of them will wear an AstroRad radiation protection vest. The data obtained will help us understand how dangerous radiation is during flight and how much the vest protects against it.
Living organisms from Earth traveled in space aboard a cubesat called Biosentinel, which, along with nine other cubesat, was "packed" into the upper stage of the SLS.
The yeast cells will also help study the effects of radiation on living organisms and understand how to protect against negative effects.
The Lunar IceCube is a cubesat for finding water and other potential resources on the Moon. The more resources that can be found locally, the fewer astronauts will need to take with them on future missions.
A tiny moon lander module is the only part of the Artemis 1 manifest that will have to land on the surface of the Moon.
It is a small spacecraft weighing only 1 kg, designed to fly to the moon after disconnecting from the cubesat in lunar orbit.
Another cubesat, the NEA (Near-Earth Asteroid) Scout, will use a solar sail to travel to a target asteroid.
It faces a two-year mission during which it will photograph the asteroid with NEACam, a 20-megapixel image sensor, to learn more about the asteroid's rotation, shape, dust, and position in space.
These images will help future asteroid landing missions, and may also tell scientists more about how these space rocks formed and evolved.
The EQUilibriUm Lunar-Earth point 6U (Equuleus) spacecraft is designed to study radiation in orbit between Earth and the Moon.
The CubeSat has a new water propulsion system that minimizes conventional fuel consumption.
Mission leaders are collecting data on the plasmasphere, the inner region of the magnetosphere.
This area has 'cold' plasma, which refers to a gas with atoms devoid of electrons. This is a potentially useful radiation experiment that could also help in planning low-energy lunar missions in the future missions.