Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 15 July 2023

India’s third unmanned lunar Mission

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

India’s third unmanned lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, aimed at exploring the south polar region of the moon, soared into the sky successfully on 14 July 2023 as planned from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) by LVM-3. The precise goal is to make a soft and safe landing on the lunar surface, and if the mission is successful, India will only be the fourth country to have achieved the feat, joining the elite club of the US, Russia, and China.

What are the Chandrayaan missions?

  • India’s Chandrayaan missions are aimed at lunar exploration, beginning with Chandrayaan-1 that launched on 22 October 2008.
  • The primary science objective of the mission was to prepare a three dimensional atlas of both near and far side of the Moon and to conduct chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface with high spatial resolution.
  • It made more than 3,400 orbits around the moon and was operational for at least 312 days, until 29 August 2009, when radio contact with the spacecraft was lost.
  • However, the fact that it used indigenously developed technology was a major achievement.
  • On 14 November 2008, a payload named MIP (Moon Impact Probe) carried by the spacecraft was separated and it struck the lunar South Pole in a controlled manner.
  • India was then able to make discoveries related to the detection of water (H2O) and hydroxyl (OH) on the lunar surface. The data also revealed their enhanced abundance towards the polar region. It further found ice in the North polar region of the Moon.

What does Chandrayaan-3 aim to do?

  • Mainly, the Chandrayaan-3 mission is to demonstrate India’s growing technical capabilities in the field and conduct a successful soft landing on the moon.
  • The payloads on the lander and rover remain the same as the last mission. There will be four scientific payloads on the lander to study lunar quakesthermal properties of the lunar surfacechanges in the plasma near the surface, and a passive experiment to help accurately measure the distance between Earth and moon. The fourth payload comes from NASA.
  • There are two payloads on the rover, designed to study the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface and to determine the composition of elements such as magnesiumaluminium and iron in the lunar soil and rocks.
  • Notably, the landing site of the latest mission is more or less the same as the Chandrayaan-2: near the south pole of the moon at 70 degrees latitude.
  • If everything goes well, the Chandrayaan-3 will become the world’s first mission to soft-land near the lunar south pole.

Why land near the South Pole?

  • Extreme, contrasting conditions make it a challenging location for Earthlings to land, live, and work, but the region’s unique characteristics hold promise for unprecedented deep space scientific discoveries.
  • It also noted the importance of Lunar polar volatiles. Volatiles are chemical elements or compounds in a solid state that melt or evaporate at moderately warm temperatures and can be found on the moon. Space missions could help understand their distribution on the moon.
  • If they contain elements like Hydrogen and Oxygen, this “could have a profound impact on the future of deep space exploration and commerce”. It would reduce the amount of supplies that would have to be sent from Earth to support humans in deep space.

 

Anthropocene epoch began in the 1950s

GS Paper - 1 (Geography)

In a major development that could change the Earth’s official geological timeline, geologists have said sediments at Crawford Lake in Canada’s Ontario have provided evidence of the beginning of the Anthropocene epoch — a proposed geological epoch that began when human activity started to have a significant impact on the Earth. Members of the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), which has been working since 2009 to make the Anthropocene part of the planet’s time scale, the 35 geologists have estimated that the new epoch started sometime between 1950 and 1954.

What is the Anthropocene epoch?

  • The Anthropocene epoch as a term was first coined by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen and biology professor Eugene Stoermer in 2000 to denote the present geological time interval, in which the Earth’s ecosystem has gone through radical changes due to human impact, especially since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
  • There are numerous phenomena associated with this epoch, such as global warmingsea-level riseocean acidificationmass-scale soil erosion, the advent of deadly heat waves, deterioration of the biosphere and other detrimental changes in the environment.
  • Many of these changes will persist for millennia or longer, and are altering the trajectory of the Earth System, some with permanent effect.
  • They are being reflected in a distinctive body of geological strata now accumulating, with potential to be preserved into the far future.

What have the geologists found?

  • The 79 feet deep and 25,800 square-feet-wide Crawford Lake was chosen for examination by the geologists over 11 other potential sites as its layers of sediment preserved the annual impact of human activities on the Earth’s soilatmosphere and biology.
  • Francine McCarthy, a professor of Earth sciences at Brock University in Canada who has studied the lake, said there are distinct and multiple signals starting around 1950 in the water body, which showed that “the effects of humans overwhelm the Earth system”.
  • The “presence of plutonium (due to detonation of nuclear weapons) gives us a stark indicator of when humanity became such a dominant force that it could leave a unique global ‘fingerprint’ on our planet.”

How is the Earth’s geological time divided?

  • The planet’s geological time scale is divided into five broad categorieseonsepochserasperiodsepochs and ages.
  • While eon is the broadest category of geological timeage is the smallest category.
  • Each of these categories is further divided into sub-categories. For instance, Earth’s history is characterised by four eons, including Hadeon (oldest)ArcheanProterozoic, and Phanerozoic (youngest).
  • As of now, at least officially, we’re in the Phanerozoic eonCenozoic eraQuaternary periodHolocene epoch and the Meghalayan age.

 

IN-SPACe issues EoI for SSLV tech transfer

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) issued an expression of interest (EoI) for transfer of technology (ToT) of the small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) to Indian private players. This first-of-its-kind ToT is a significant milestone for the Indian Space sector.

More about the News

  • Unlike in the case of the PSLV, where a manufacturing contract was awarded to a consortium, in case of SSLV, the launch vehicle is being entirely offered to the private industry.
  • The recipient of this ToT would be able to grow the small satellite segment in a big way, paving the way for India to become the global hub for such launches.
  • The private space industry in India so far has played a limited role in contrast to the global scenario wherein private players are in the forefront of space activities.
  • Isro needs to mentor and handhold the private industry and needs to work in a collaborative mode for overall development of the sector.
  • SSLV is an outcome of years of efforts of hundreds of Isro scientists and this ToT will give a big boost to the industry.

Flashback

  • Isro has so far flown the SSLV twice and only one of the missions was a success.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), whose maiden launch attempt of the small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) did not manage to put the satellites into their desired orbit on 7 August 2022.
  • The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) is a three-stage launch vehicle configured with three solid propulsion stages and liquid propulsion-based Velocity Trimming Module (VTM) as a terminal stage.
  • Isro developed the SSLV to cater the launch of up to 500kg satellites to Low Earth Orbits (LEO) on ‘launch-on-demand’ basis. It was to help Isro carve a niche in a multi-billion dollar
  • This will help India gain advantage in a growing launch services market, especially at a time when multiple new countries and the private sector from developed nations are seeking access to space.

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