Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 18 August 2023

Chandrayaan-3 lander separates from propulsion module

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

The Chandrayaan-3 lander, which carries within it the 26kh rover, separated from the propulsion module on 17 August 2023 for its onward journey to the surface of the moon on 23 August 2023. The lander module will descend further down from the current near-circular orbit of 153 x 163 km after a de-boosting manoeuvre.

What is Propulsion module

  • The propulsion module, meanwhile, will continue orbiting the moon and studying the spectral signatures of Earth using a payload that was tacked on to the mission in addition to the science experiments carried on board its predecessor.
  • By studying Earth from the moon, the Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) will help scientists understand the markers of life on exoplanets.
  • Although the planned mission life for the propulsion module – which was added to the mission in place of the orbiter to help carry the lander rover to the moon – was three to six months, it is likely to keep functioning beyond that. Meanwhile, the Propulsion Module continues its journey in the current orbit for months/years.
  • Since the orbiter of Chandrayaan-2 had functioned normally and the instruments on board carried out all the observations and experiments as intended, there was no need to include an orbiter component to Chandrayaan-3.

More about lander module

  • However, the lander module still needed to be transported to lunar orbit, and the propulsion module had this limited task to perform.
  • The Chandrayaan-3 mission has been designed to achieve what Chandrayaan-2 could not – soft landing and roving on the surface of the moon.
  • After the separation, the instruments on board the lander, including the three scientific payloads, will be activated and tested to check whether everything is functioning normally.
  • The lander will carry out two orbit-reduction manoeuvres on its own, first getting into the circular 100 x 100 km orbit, and then further closer to the moon in the 100 x 30 km orbit.
  • This powered descent was described as “fifteen minutes of terror” by the previous Isro chief K Sivan.


  • Chandrayaan-2 had crash-landed just kilometres from its intended landing spot due to flaws in the algorithm of the onboard navigation software.
  • The software did not provide for an immediate error-correction step when the engines produced a higher-than-intended thrust.
  • The algorithm was designed to make the corrections after performing a few other urgent tasks. But this allowed the errors to accumulate and become unmanageable.


IITG produces pluripotent stem cells

GS Paper - 3 (Biotechnology)

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IITG) in collaboration with scientists from Christian Medical College, Vellore, have reported a method to convert regular human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells. The human body is made of many kinds of cells – nerve cellsheart cellsliver cellspancreatic cells, and so on, with unique structures and functions.

More about the News

  • All these distinctive cells originate from stem cells to perform a specific function. Lack of any of this cell type in a human body will result in a disease or disorder.
  • Thus, stem cells can be programmed to develop into mature functional cells, which can be used to replace damaged cells.
  • Stem Cells have to be extracted from embryos or parts of the adult human body like the brain or bone marrow, which is challenging from both ethical and practical aspects.
  • Thus, scientists are exploring techniques to convert ordinary cells, like skin or blood cells, into pluripotent stem cells – stem cells that can be programmed to develop into any other form of an adult cell type. These cells are called Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs).
  • The most important advantage of iPSCs is their potential to produce patient-specific cells which can be transplanted to the site of injury or the site of tissue degeneration due to various disease conditions, and thereby, eliminate any chance of immune rejection.
  • The conversion of mature cells into iPSCs was first shown by Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, who won the Nobel Prize in 2012 for his discovery.

How it Prepared

  • This research involved introducing specific genes into mature cells to convert them into iPSCs.
  • The researchers have used a safe, integration-free method, and have introduced genes such as OCT3/4SOX2KLF4L-MYCLIN28 and a p53 shRNA into skin cells to transform them into iPSCs.
  • The iPSCs produced by the IITG and CMC researchers were versatile, maintained their genetic makeup well, and could potentially differentiate into a range of body cell types.
  • Additionally, tests confirmed that the DNA structure of the cells was not altered and matched that of the original cells. Importantly, these iPSCs were found to be free from bacterial contamination.
  • iPSCs are useful for the design of stem-cell therapies for a range of ailments. iPSCs can be programmed to become beta islet cells to treat diabetesblood cells to treat leukaemia, or neurons to treat disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s diseases.
  • Given the importance and potential of stem cells, the Government of India actively supports stem cell research through the Department of Health Research-Indian Council of Medical Research (DHR-ICMR).
  • This commitment spans two decades and includes initiatives such as advanced research centresthematic task forces, and iPSC generation.
  • The collaboration between IIT Guwahati and CMC Vellore aligns seamlessly with these efforts and India’s endeavour to be at the forefront of stem cell research.


Net zero carbon emission country

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

Bhutan has emerged as a country with net zero emissions and not only curbed its carbon footprints, but has also transformed into a carbon sink, absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than releasing, It reported that the recent report from the World Economic Forum revealed that the eight countries including Bhutan have attained an impressive feat of net zero emissions.

More about the News

  • Bhutan is one among the 196 nations that committed to the Paris Agreement during the UN Climate Change Conference focused on restricting global temperature increases to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • Apart from BhutanComoros, nestled in the Indian Ocean and Gabon in Central Africa have managed to control the carbon emissions and set an example for other countries.
  • Comoros, by conscientiously managing its agriculturalfishing, and livestock sectors, complemented by rigorous environmental safeguards has maintained low emissions.
  • Bhutan's unique success as the first nation to achieve net zero emissions is rooted in its population of 8,00,000 and its remarkable forest coverage of 70%.

Why this achievement

  • The nation prioritizes sustainable organic farming and forestry practices, accentuated by the reliance on hydropower and the prudent management of its main economic drivertourism.
  • Notably, Bhutan charges a $200 sustainable development fee per day from tourists, underscoring the value placed on eco-tourism and environmental protection.
  • It has been reported that another reason behind this control of emissions is the forests being an intrinsic part of its spiritual heritage.
  • Guided by a climate-conscious forest economy, Bhutan mitigates greenhouse gas emissionspreserves wildlife habitatsmitigates forest fires, and practices sustainable forest management for timber, fruit, and rubber - fostering a circular economy.
  • The nation has embarked on pilot projects that explore sustainable timber construction, showcasing innovative solutions.
  • Bhutan's journey to net zero emissions, fueled by an unyielding commitment to its environment and cultural heritage, is a source of inspiration for the world.
  • As nations navigate the complexities of climate change, Bhutan's story beckons us to embrace sustainable practices and safeguard our precious planet.

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