Science

ISRO successfully launches earth monitoring satellite, 30 others into space

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Adding another feather to its cap, ISRO’s workhorse rocket PSLV-C43 Thursday successfully injected into orbit India’s earth observation satellite HysIS.The Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS), an earth observation satellite developed by ISRO, is the primary satellite of the PSLV-C43 mission.

The mass of the spacecraft is about 380 kg, the space agency said adding that the satellite would be placed in 636 km-polar sun synchronous orbit with an inclination of 97.957 degree.

The primary goal of HysIS, whose mission life is five years, is to study the earth’s surface in visible near infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The co-passengers of HysIS include 1 micro and 29 nano satellites from eight different countries. All these satellites have been commercially contracted for launch through ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation Limited.

PSLV-C43, which is the 45th flight of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), is the ‘Core Alone’ version of PSLV. It is the lightest version of the launch vehicle.

The 30 other co-passenger international satellites including those from the United States of America and Australia among others, will soon be placed into orbit.

The space agency had launched its latest communication satellite GSAT-29 on board GSLV MkIII-D2 on November 14.

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Science

Private FM channels to be permitted to broadcast AIR news

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Private FM channels will be allowed to broadcast All India Radio news in English and Hindi after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Tuesday launched the facility.

The FM channels will have to carry the AIR news in an unaltered format and the service will be available free of cost on a trial basis till May 31 this year.

As per the terms and conditions, during the trial period, private FM broadcasters may avoid broadcasting in disturbed or border and Naxalism-affected areas.
Information and Broadcasting minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said the move empowers citizens.

This empowers me as a citizen. What else does a democracy need? We should be able to make our citizens aware and empowered. This was approved much before and I would like to congratulate the Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials for the nudge,” he said.

He said the All India Radio and the Prasar Bharati were in discussion on costs.

Our priority is awareness among citizens and secondary is revenue generation. We have made it available free of cost so that there are no further delays,” he added.

He said now that people will be listening to announcers from the All India Radio on different FM channels, it is also an occasion for the Prasar Bharati and the All India Radio to step up.

Through a televised message, Prasar Bharati chairman A Surya Prakash termed the initiative significant in this era of collaboration and convergence.

Anuradha Prasad, president, Association of Radio Operators of India, thanked the government for accepting the long-standing demand of private radio broadcasters to present news on their platform.

Private FM radio broadcasters would be permitted to broadcast AIR news bulletins in English and Hindi as per list of bulletins given in news schedule, subject to certain terms and conditions.

Any private FM broadcaster which intends to broadcast the news bulletins will first have to register with the News Services Division: All India Radio on its website.

The commercials which are broadcast during news bulletins shall also have to be carried along with the news in toto.

The private FM broadcasters will have to give due credit to the AIR for sourcing their news and will have to carry AIR news bulletins either simultaneously or deferred live by not more than 30 minutes.

In case of deferred live, an announcement should precede that it is a deferred live broadcast.

Union Information and Broadcasting Secretary Amit Khare, CEO, Prasar Bharati, Shashi Shekhar Vempati and DG, AIR F Sheheryar were among those present at the event.

 

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Science

Gaganyaan project: Three Indians to spend a week in space, to cost Rs 10,000 crores

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The Union Cabinet Friday approved the Gaganyaan project under which a three-member crew will be sent to space for seven days, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.The project will cost Rs 10,000 crore, he said at a press conference here.

The Gaganyaan project was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech.He had said the mission will be undertaken by 2022.India has already inked agreements with Russia and France for assistance in the ambitious project.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Gaganyaan Programme with demonstration of Indian Human Spaceflight capability to low earth orbit for a mission duration ranging from one orbital period to a maximum of seven days. A human rated GSLV Mk-lll will be used to carry the orbital module which will have necessary provisions for sustaining a 3-member crew for the duration of the mission. The necessary infrastructure for crew training, realization of flight systems and ground infrastructure will be established to support the Gaganyaan Programme. ISRO will collaborate extensively with National agencies, laboratories, academia and industry to accomplish the Gaganyaan Programme objectives.

Expenditure:

The total fund requirement for the Gaganyaan Programme is within Rs.10,000 crore and includes cost of technology development, flight hardware realization and essential infrastructure elements. Two unmanned flights and one manned flight will be undertaken as part of Gaganyaan Programme.

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India

Good news: Noida’s Aqua Line gets go ahead from NMRC, seeks inauguration date from govt

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A final and mandatory safety inspection report has given the Noida Metro Rail Corporation (NMRC) the approval to launch commercial operations of the Aqua Line, officials said Friday.

With the approval, the NMRC has now written to the Uttar Pradesh government to finalise the date of inauguration of the much-awaited Aqua Line that would run between Sector 71 station in Noida and the Depot Station in Greater Noida, covering 29.7 km through 21 stations.

“The Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS) report has been received and it has its sanction for the commercial operations of the metro service. The report also praised the civil and track work of the metro system, NMRC Executive Director P D Upadhyay said.

NMRC’s managing director has written to the state government for finalizing the date of inauguration, said Upadhyay, who was in Lucknow Friday, handed over a letter to Chief Secretary Anup Chandra Pandey.

He also said the fares of the Aqua Line would be decided in the NMRC Board meeting scheduled on December 28.

“Chairman Sanjay K Murthy, the additional secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will chair the meeting, he added.

Earlier, the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA) approved the second phase of the Metro link from Noida Sector 71 to Knowledge Park 5 in Greater Noida.

The extension will comprise nine stations and with a project cost of cost Rs 2,602 crores.

This decision was taken at the Authority’s 113th board meeting. “NMRC would be the nodal agency for the project. The first phase of the Metro project comprising five stations from Noida Sector 71 to Greater Noida Sector 2 is expected to cost around Rs 1521 crore, officials said.

The extended line of Noida Metro’s Aqua Linewill have a total of nine metro stations out of which two will be in Noida and seven will be in Greater Noida. The metro stations in Noida include sectors 122 and 123 and the metro stations in Greater Noida include sector 4, Ecotech 12, sectors 2, 3, 10, 12 and Knowledge Park V.

Akhilesh Yadav earlier had given its approval for construction of a 15-km Metro project.

“We have asked builders to contribute fund and generate ideas to lure investment and buyers,” said a senior official of UP government.

“We are adhering to the direction of the government. This project will change the fortune of this belt. We have decided to plan stress-free homes where we will offer facilities for all family members,” said Rahul Gupta, Director of Ace group.

“We believe that this project is crucial as it will benefit thousands of homebuyers who have shifted to the newly built apartment complexes in Greater Noida West and nearby Crossings Republik in Ghaziabad that has 36,000 housing units,” said Geetambar Anand, CMD, ATS.

Greater Noida West has around 3.5 lakh under-construction housing units of which around 40,000 are occupied.

 

 

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Science

Winter solstice 2018: Here’s everything you need to know about the shortest day of the year

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Today is the shortest day of the year, also known as the winter solstice. If you are not aware, Winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. This time it is even more special since skywatchers will also have an opportunity to witness a Full moon and meteor shower.

What does solstice mean?

The term ‘solstice’ is derived from two Latin words “sol” which means sun, and “sistere”, meaning standstill. The Sun seems to stand still in the winter sky, marking the shortest day and longest night of the year.

What is Winter Solstice?

To talk about the science behind winter solstice, it marks the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere since the sun is positioned at its most southerly position while directly overheating at the Tropic of Capricorn. On the other hand, the winter solstice also marks the longest day of in the Southern Hemisphere.

Winter Solstice 2018 date and time?

Just like every year, Winter solstice 2018 will also take place on December 21 and the exact timing for the 2018 winter solstice is 22:23 UTC (4:53 pm IST on December 22). As mentioned above, this Winter solstice 2018 is even more special as less than the day after the solstice, we will be able to see the last Full Moon of the year.

  •  On December 22 at 17:49 UTC, people will be able to see the last full moon of the year. The last full moon of the year is also known as Cold Full Moon, Long Night Moon and Cold Moon around the globe.

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Science

Srinagar shivers at minus 4.6 deg C, Kargil coldest in J-K at minus 15.8 deg C

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Kargil in Ladakh region was the coldest place in Jammu and Kashmir Monday as minimum temperature dipped to minus 15.8 degree Celsius, MeT Office said Tuesday.

Cold conditions continued in Kashmir valley and Ladakh, while there was some respite in the Jammu region.

The mercury in Leh dipped to minus 15.1 degree Celsius. In Srinagar, the night temperature settled at a low of minus 4.6 degree Celsius. Qazigund recorded a minus 5.3 degree Celsius, Kokernag town was at minus 4.8 degree Celsius, Kupwara recorded minus 5.9 degree Celsius, Pahalgam settled at minus 7.7 degree Celsius, the ski-resort of Gulmarg recorded a minus 7.6 degree Celsius, the weather office said.

The valley will experience dry weather for the week ahead, MeT department said.

However, in Jammu the night temperature improved slightly after continuous dip over the past week.

Jammu city recorded an increase of 0.7 degree celsius in the night temperature to settle at 5.1 degree Celsius, a MeT official said. Despite the slight improvement, the night temperature continued to remain four degrees below normal levels.

Places in the region also experienced marginal increase in night temperatures. Bhadarwah of Doda district recorded a low of 0.6 degree Celsius against the previous night’s minus 1.2 degree Celsius, he said.

Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi shrine, recorded a minimum of 6.5 degree Celsius, while Batote town along Jammu-Srinagar national highway registered a night temperature of 3.6 degree Celsius, he said.

However, the nearby highway town of Banihal, recorded a dip in the night temperature which settled at 0.7 degrees Celsius, the spokesman said.

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Science

Scientists preparing to search for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa

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Scientists are designing a nuclear-powered “tunnelbot” that can penetrate through the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa and search for signs of life in its sub-surface ocean.

Between 1995 and 2003, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made several flybys of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Several findings from observations of the moon pointed to evidence of a liquid ocean beneath Europa’s icy surface.

Researchers believe that the ocean could harbour microbial life, or evidence of now-extinct microbial life.

While scientists generally agree on where to look — underneath the thick, planet-wide ice shell where water is in contact with a rocky core and where biochemical ingredients for life may exist — how to get there to collect samples remains a major tactical problem.

“Estimates of the thickness of the ice shell range between 2 and 30 kilometers, and is a major barrier any lander will have to overcome in order to access areas we think have a chance of holding biosignatures representative of life on Europa,” said Andrew Dombard, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the US.

Dombard and his team are tasked with designing technology and solutions for space exploration and science missions.

The group performed a concept study for a nuclear-powered “tunnelbot” that can penetrate the ice shell and reach the top of Europa’s ocean while carrying devices and instruments that can be used to search for signs of life or extinct life.

The bot would also evaluate the habitability of the ice shelf itself.

“We didn’t worry about how our tunnelbot would make it to Europa or get deployed into the ice. We just assumed it could get there and we focused on how it would work during descent to the ocean,” said Dombard.

The bot would sample ice throughout the shell, as well as water at the ice-water interface, and would look at the underside of the ice to search for microbial biofilms.

The bot would also have the capability of searching liquid water “lakes” within the ice shell.

The researchers considered two designs for their bot: one powered by a small nuclear reactor, and the other powered by General Purpose Heat Source bricks — radioactive heat source modules designed for space missions.

Heat from both these sources could be used to melt the ice shell. Communications would be provided by a string of “repeaters” connected to the bot by fibre optic cables, researchers said.

 

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Health

World’s first baby born via uterus transplanted from dead donor

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In a medical first, a mother who received a uterus transplant from a dead donor gave birth to a healthy baby, researchers reported Wednesday.

The breakthrough operation, performed two years ago in Brazil, shows that such transplants are feasible and could help thousands of women unable to have children due to uterine problems, according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal.The baby girl was born in September 2016 in Sao Paolo.

Until recently, the only options available to women with so-called uterine infertility were adoption or the services of a surrogate mother.The first successful childbirth following uterine transplant from a living donor took place in 2013 in Sweden, and there have been 10 others since then.But there are far more women in need of transplants than there are potential live donors, so doctors wanted to find out if the procedure could work using the uterus of a woman who had died.

Ten attempts were made — in the United States, the Czech Republic, and Turkey — before the success reported Wednesday.Infertility affects 10- to 15 per cent of couples.Of this group, one in 500 women have problems with their uterus — due, for example, to a malformation, hysterectomy, or infection — that prevent them from becoming pregnant and carrying a child to term.”Our results provide a proof-of-concept for a new option for women with uterine infertility,” said Dani Ejzenberg, a doctor at the teaching hospital of the University of Sao Paulo.He describing the procedure as a “medical milestone”.

“The number of people willing and committed to donate organs upon their own death are far larger than those of live donors, offering a much wider potential donor population,” he said in a statement.The 32-year-old recipient was born without a uterus as a result of a rare syndrome.Four months before the transplant, she had in-vitro fertilisation resulting in eight fertilised eggs, which were preserved through freezing.The donor was a 45-year-old woman who died from a stroke.

Her uterus was removed and transplanted in surgery that lasted more than ten hours.The surgical team had to connect the donor’s uterus with the veins, arteries, ligaments, and vaginal canal of the recipient.To prevent her body from rejecting the new organ, the woman was given five different drugs, along with antimicrobials, anti-blood clotting treatments, and aspirin.After five months, the uterus showed no sign of rejection, ultrasound scans were normal, and the woman was menstruating regularly.

The fertilised eggs were implanted after seven months. Ten days later, doctors delivered the good news: she was pregnant.Besides a minor kidney infection — treated with antibiotics — during the 32nd week, the pregnancy was normal. After nearly 36 weeks a baby girl weighing 2.5 kilogrammes (about six pounds) was delivered via caesarean section.

Mother and baby left the hospital three days later.The transplanted uterus was removed during the C-section, allowing the woman to stop taking the immunosuppressive drugs.At age seven months and 12 days — when the manuscript reporting the findings was submitted for publication — the baby was breastfeeding and weighed 7.2 kilogrammes.

“We must congratulate the authors,” commented Dr. Srdjan Saso, an honorary clinical lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology at Imperial College London, describing the findings as “extremely exciting”.Richard Kennedy, president of the International Federation of Fertility Societies, also welcomed the announcement but sounded a note of caution.”Uterine transplant is a novel technique and should be regarded as experimental,” he said.

 

 

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Science

Great Himalayan earthquake of intensity 8.5 or more ‘anytime in future’, says recent study

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For a very long time, seismologists have warned about the impending ‘Great Himalayan earthquake’. With an intensity of over 8 in the Richter scale, it is predicted to have a catastrophic effect in areas which are extremely densely populated. The Nepal earthquake of 2015 with an intensity of 7.8 killed nearly 9,000 people. But scientists warned that it will not be the last big earthquake and a massive quake is just round the corners. Now, another research has added credence to that theory. Research team led by CP Rajendran of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru has warned of at least one earthquake of intensity over 8,5 or more ‘anytime in future’, reported news agency IANS.

The report quotes study published in ‘Geological Journal’, where scientists have pointed at an increase of strain being an indicator to an impending earthquake. The database used for the study are from Mohana Khola in Nepal and Chorgalia in India along with data already in public domain.

The research which used maps made by GSI, imagery from ISRO’s satellite, alongside Google Earth has some grim prediction for India and its neighbouring countries. The research concludes,” An earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more is overdue in this part of the Himalayas, given the long-elapsed time”. It also indicates towards poor preparation by authorities to deal with some natural calamity which is only likely to increase the level of destruction.

According to researchers, almost 600-700 years back a massive earthquake took place in the Himalayas. Since then, the area covering parts of India and eastern Nepal has been ‘seismically silent’ although the plates are having an annual displacement of around 15 metres, building up huge tectonic pressure. Hence scientists believe a strong earthquake is due anytime now.

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India

India seeks to buy 24 anti-submarine helicopters MH-60 ‘Romeo’ from US

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India has sought from the US 24 multi-role MH-60 ‘Romeo’ anti-submarine helicopters for its Navy at an estimated cost of US $2 billion, defence industry sources here said Friday.

India has been in need of these formidable anti-submarine hunter helicopters for more than a decade now.

The deal is expected to be finalised in a few months, informed sources told PTI, days after US Vice President Mike Pence held a successful meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Singapore on the sidelines of a regional summit.

India has sent a letter of request to the US for an “urgent requirement” of 24 multi-role helicopters MH 60 Romeo Seahawk, sources said.

In recent months, there has been acceleration in defence ties between the two countries, with the Trump administration opening up America’s high-tech military hardware for India’s defence needs.

Bilateral defence relationship was on top of the agenda of the Modi-Pence meeting in Singapore on Wednesday.

The meeting is likely to be followed by a summit-level bilateral between Prime Minister Modi and US President Donald Trump in Argentina on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting on November 30 and December 1. Neither side has confirmed the meeting yet.

According to sources, the MH-60 Romeo deal is expected to have an offset requirement. Sources indicated that India plans to follow up this urgent requirement with a long-term plan to manufacture 123 of these helicopters in India.

Currently deployed with the US Navy as the primary anti-submarine warfare anti-surface weapon system for open ocean and littoral zones, Lockheed Martin’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopter is considered the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter.

According to industry experts, it is the most capable naval helicopter available today designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers. MH-60 Romeo Seahawks would add lethal capabilities of the Indian Navy, which experts say is the need of the hour given the aggressive behavior of China in the Indian Ocean region.

Lockheed over the years has emerged as a major American supplier of state-of-the-art defence military equipment.

“With this Seahawk deal the overall US-India defense trade will surpass USD 20 billion,” an industry source said.

“The pipeline of opportunities for US defense firms can result in another USD 5 billion of sales in the next few years,” the source added.

According to US Naval Air System Command, the MH-60R Seahawk missions are anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, surveillance, communications relay, combat search and rescue, naval gunfire support and logistics support.

As the Navy’s next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter, the MH-60R Seahawk is considered to be the cornerstone of the Navy’s Helicopter Concept of Operations.

The MH-60R and its mission systems have replaced the US naval fleet’s legacy SH-60B and SH-60F aircraft.

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NASA wants people on Mars within 25 years

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Deadly radiation from the cosmos, potential vision loss, and atrophying bones are just some of the challenges scientists must overcome before any future astronaut can set foot on Mars, experts and top NASA officials said.
The US space agency believes it can put humans on the Red Planet within 25 years, but the technological and medical hurdles are immense. “The cost of solving those means that under current budgets, or slightly expanded budgets, it’s going to take about 25 years to solve those,” said former NASA astronaut Tom Jones, who flew on four space shuttle missions before retiring in 2001.
“We need to get started now on certain key technologies,” he told reporters in Washington. At an average distance of about 140 million miles (225 million kilometers), Mars poses scientific problems an order of magnitude greater than anything encountered by the Apollo lunar missions.
With today’s rocket technology, it would take an astronaut up to nine months to reach Mars — the physical toll of floating that long in zero gravity would be huge. For instance, scientists think prolonged weightlessness can cause irreversible changes to blood vessels in the retina, leading to vision degradation.
And after a while in zero G, the skeleton starts to leach calcium and bone mass.
With gravity only one-third of Earth’s, scientists don’t yet know the effects of a presumed one-year mission to the surface of Mars.
– Better propulsion –
One way to reduce wear and tear on the human body is to dramatically cut down on travel time to Mars. Jones called for nuclear propulsion systems that would have the added benefit of producing electricity on flights. “If we start now, in 25 years we might have these technologies available to help us and protect us from these long transit times,” he said.
Under current conditions, just an outbound trip to Mars would take so long that any astronaut would receive the same amount of radiation than ordinarily would be deemed safe over the course of an entire career.
“We don’t have the solution yet in terms of shielding, in terms of protecting you from cosmic rays and solar flares that you experience during this transit time,” Jones said. Aerospace experts have identified several technologies that need rapid development, including spacecraft that can survive the harsh entry into Mars and land softly enough, as well as the ability to lift people off the surface and head back to Earth.
NASA currently has a new robotic lander called InSight zooming towards Mars, due to land on November 26 after taking off from California on May 5. The $993 million project aims to expand human knowledge of interior conditions on Mars, inform efforts to send explorers there, and reveal how rocky planets like the Earth formed billions of years ago.
Jim Garvin, chief scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said InSight would fill in “critical unknowns” and help build a key understanding of Mars.
In 2020, another mission will see NASA send a rover to Mars that aims to determine the habitability of the Martian environment, search for signs of ancient life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.
Additionally, private firms like SpaceX and a host of other nations are building technologies that could be used on future Mars missions. Some experts see new exploration of the Moon as key to a future mission to Mars, as astronauts there could learn about extracting water or using technology and apply those lessons to future Mars missions.

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