A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
NASA takes its first step in a new era of space exploration on Monday (August 29) with the launch of its Artemis I lunar mission aboard the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The uncrewed Orion capsule will travel 280,000 miles from Earth, further than any spacecraft designed for humans ever has before, and do two flybys around 60 miles above the surface of the Moon during its 42-day mission. The goal is to test the capsule and rocket systems ahead of future flights as part of NASA’s deep space exploration plans. If the launch is successful, it will usher in Artemis II, a crewed orbit mission currently scheduled for May 2024, and the return of humans (including the first woman and first person of colour) to the lunar surface with 2025’s Artemis III.
But the programme isn’t just about getting back on the Moon for the first time in over 50 years – NASA wants to use the Moon as a staging post for human exploration of Mars, and Artemis is designed to test some of the technology and effects of long-term space travel on astronauts that will be needed to get there. To say NASA is excited is an understatement: the live broadcast of the launch will include celebrity appearances from the likes of Chris Evans, Keke Palmer and Jack Black, a rendition of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock, and ‘America the Beautiful’ performed by The Philadelpha Orchestra and Yo-Yo Ma.
The indefinite shutdown of crown courts across England and Wales begins on Tuesday (August 30) as criminal barristers continue their fight with the government over legal aid funding reforms. Members of the Criminal Bar Association have held periodic walkouts since June, and voted overwhelmingly this week to down tools until further notice from September 5. A week of action at the end of August had already been scheduled, meaning all criminal cases will effectively grind to a halt from Tuesday. The strike comes as the government struggles to tackle substantial and increasing crown court backlogs, which the legal profession has put down to years of underfunding by consecutive administrations. The Law Society claims only a ‘radical shift’ in the Ministry of Justice’s stance will address the problem, a seemingly unlikely prospect in the wake of Dominic Raab’s comments that barristers are ‘holding justice to ransom’.
Monday (August 29) also sees the start of the US Open, with all eyes on Serena Williams following her Vogue interview heavily hinting at an imminent retirement from the sport. Williams, widely viewed as the greatest female player of all time, has had a tough season, most recently losing in straight sets to last year’s surprise champion Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati earlier this month. Regardless of her performance in Flushing Meadows, the 23-time Grand Slam champion is certain to receive a triumphant reception from the home crowd. The British audience will also be watching Raducanu in hopes of a repeat of last year’s victory. Though she’s had a difficult follow up season, the 19-year-old, who was this week named as one of the top 10 highest-paid players last year, has been backed by the likes of Andy Murray and Kim Clijsters to go the distance defending her title.
EU foreign ministers will gather in the Czech capital on Tuesday (August 30) for the first time since the summer break for a two-day meeting once again set to be dominated by the conflict in Ukraine. The informal gathering, known as a Gymnich, comes amid calls from some nations – notably Estonia, Finland and the Czech presidency – for a total ban on tourist visas for Russians wishing to visit the bloc. Speaking last week, however, EU High Representative Josep Borrell poured cold water on the proposal, which is also opposed by the powerful German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, urging a more ‘selective’ approach. Scholz will be able to elaborate on his position on Sunday (September 4), when he hosts Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal in Berlin.
Pennsylvania is shaping up to be a key battleground in November’s US midterm elections, and next week will see both President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump visit the Keystone State. First up is Biden, who on Tuesday (August 30) makes a rescheduled visit to Wilkes-Barre after being forced to postpone a planned trip last month when he tested positive for COVID-19. Biden, who was famously once described by Barack Obama as a “scrappy kid from Scranton”, is due to deliver a speech at Wilkes University, where his remarks are expected to focus on his administration’s efforts to reduce gun violence.
Many, though, will view Biden’s trip as an amuse-bouche ahead of Donald Trump’s rally, also in Wilkes-Barre, on Saturday (September 3), his first since the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Allies of the former president have leapt to his defence, decrying the raid as an abuse of power, and it’s easy to imagine Trump leaning into this narrative at the rally, which will also be attended by the controversial Republican candidates Doug Mastriano and Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Meanwhile in Chile, a referendum takes place on Sunday (September 4) on a proposed new constitution drawn up in the wake of mass protests in 2019. But while voters overwhelmingly backed a body charged with drawing up the new charter to replace the existing one, which dates back to the days of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, enthusiasm for the project has since dwindled, and polls suggest a ‘no’ vote is the more likely outcome. This could in turn spell trouble for the country’s youthful leader Gabriel Boric, a 36-year-old leftist former student leader, who was elected on a platform of hope and whose fate many view as tied to the new constitution.