Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 31 August 2023

World's first 100% ethanol-run vehicle

GS Paper - 3 (Energy)

Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari unveiled a 100 per cent ethanol-fueled variant of Toyota's Innova HyCross car. This car is said to be the world's first BS-VI (Stage-II), electrified flex-fuel vehicle.

What are the FFVs?

  • Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) have an internal combustion engine and are capable of operating on petrol and any blend of petrol and ethanol.
  • Till now, the maximum limit of mixing is set around 83 per cent but this model says to run on 100 per cent ethanol.
  • Biofuels can save India the valuable foreign exchange that is being spent on the import of petroleum.
  • Vehicles running on alternate and greener fuels are necessary for sustainable development.
  • Last year, a hydrogen-powered car, the Toyota Mirai EV was launched by the union minister to promote alternative and green fuel energy.

What is Ethanol and how it is manufactured?

  • Ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol or alcohol) is a biofuel with the chemical formula C2H5OH. It is naturally made by the fermentation of sugar.
  • In India, it is largely derived while extracting sugar from sugarcane. However, other organic matter like food grains can also be used for its production.
  • The government has launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme to mix this biofuel with petrol to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. India has set a target of 20 per cent ethanol blending with petrol by 2025.

Ethanol a green fuel

  • Ethanol supports complete combustion, according to a government report higher reductions in carbon monoxide emissions were observed with E20 fuel–50% lower in two-wheelers and 30% lower in four-wheelers.
  • Hydrocarbon emissions scaled down by 20%, but nitrous oxide emissions did not show a substantial trend as it depended on the vehicle/engine type and engine operating conditions.


The G20 became a premier forum

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

New Delhi is gearing up to host the G20 Heads of State and Government Summit on 9 and 10 September 2023. The summit will see heads of state/government from all the G20 members (minus Vladimir Putin of Russia), the invited heads of state from other partner nations, and representatives of global organisations such as the UN, IMF, World Bank and WTO, congregate in Delhi. It is the culmination of all the G20 processes and meetings held throughout the year in cities across India, among ministers, government officials, and civil society members and organisations.

A brief introduction to the G20

  • The G20 or the Group of Twenty comprises 19 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States) and the European Union.
  • These members represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.
  • As a forum for international economic cooperation, it plays an important role in shaping and strengthening global architecture and governance on all major international economic issues.
  • Unlike the UN, G20 does not have a permanent secretariat or staff. Rather, the G20 Presidency rotates annually among the members – the Presidency is responsible for bringing together the G20 agenda, organising its workings and hosting summits. India holds the Presidency from 1 December 2022, to 30 November 2023.
  • The earliest proposal to create a G20 leaders’ forum was championed by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005, but opposition from the US slowed progress.
  • The first G20 leaders’ summit (the ‘Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy’) was convened in Washington DC in November 2008.
  • In addition to the 20 members, the heads of the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations were invited, along with Spain and the Netherlands. Annual summits have been held ever since.


After Chandrayaan-3 success

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

The Chandrayaan-3 Lander Module touched down on the Moon, after 17 minutes of powered descent. Soft landings on the lunar surface are notoriously difficult – as the recent Luna-25 mishap showed. With this success, India was catapulted into an elite club of nations including the erstwhile Soviet Union, the United States and China, to have achieved this feat. India also became the first country to land near the unexplored lunar South Pole, believed to be a reservoir of frozen water key to future space missions.

Not the last of ISRO’s lunar missions

  • Crucially, this is also not the last of ISRO’s moon missions. As of now, the agency has one more lunar mission on the cards, in collaboration with the Japanese space agency, JAXA. This mission, called LUPEX, or Lunar Polar Exploration, is slated for 2024-25.
  • LUPEX will explore the permanently shaded polar region of the Moon, adding another layer of complexity to the operation.
  • It will seek to scope the region for the possibility of locating a long-term station in the area – like the International Space Station, but on the Moon.
  • For the mission, the launch vehicle and rover will be contributed by the Japanese agency, while ISRO will provide the lander.
  • Also, Chandrayaan-3 is also not likely to be the last of this series of missions. Of course, the Chandrayaan programme will not end with Chandrayaan-3.
  • A sample return mission would be a few notches further up in difficulty as it would require a spacecraft not only to land successfully on the Moon, but also to then take off from the lunar surface and return back to Earth. China carried out such a mission with Chang’e-5 in 2020.

A trip to the Evening Star

  • Also on the cards is a trip to Venus, hopefully within the next couple of years. Currently a Venus mission has been conceived, a project report is made, money identified, an overall plan has been prepared … all this has been done.
  • While the exact details of this mission are yet to be revealed, like previous ISRO missions, the conceived Venus mission will also emphasise on scientific research while also showcasing the space agency’s technical prowess.
  • Only slightly smaller than Earth, Venus was once believed to be very similar to our home planet. In fact, prior to planetary exploration, many believed that it would be suitable for human exploration. But early missions to Venus in the 1960s discovered that conditions were extremely inhospitable, making exploration an extremely challenging task.
  • The intense heat and crushing pressure on the planet are further aggravated by the contant volcanic activity.
  • Till date, the longest any spacecraft has survived on the planet’s surface is a little over two hours – a record set by the Soviet Union’s Venera 13 probe in 1981.
  • While ISRO’s first Venus mission is likely to be a somewhat easier orbiter mission, it is yet to be seen whether the agency plans to send a spacecraft to the planet’s surface.

Sending humans to space the ‘ultimate’ aim

  • Perhaps ISRO’s ultimate goal in the near future is to carry out manned space missions, something that would signal a radical advancement in ISRO’s capabilities.
  • The Gaganyaan project envisages demonstration of human spaceflight capability by launching crew of three members to an orbit of 400 km for a three day mission, and bring them back safely to Earth, by landing in Indian sea waters.
  • ISRO is already working on a modified version of the LVM-3 rocket, used for Chandrayaan-3, to take humans to space.
  • The HLVM-3 (Human-rated LVM-3) will be capable of launching an orbital module to an intended Low Earth Orbit of 400 km. It will incorporate a crucial Crew Escape System (CES).
  • Before Gaganyaan takes flight, however, Indian astronauts are already set to go to the International Space Station (ISS), sometime next year.
  • Just a couple of months ago, ISRO and the United States’ NASA agreed to send a joint human spaceflight mission to the ISS.
  • This would be the first time in 40 years that Indians would fly to space, though they would ride a NASA spacecraft and not India.

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