News Article | June 6, 2016
Space agencies around the world have come to an agreement to share each other's satellite findings to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. On June 3, space agencies from over 60 nations with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the French Space Agency (CNES) as catalysts agreed to interconnect their satellites and integrate their techniques and information to oversee greenhouse gases produced by human activity. The Paris climate meeting, which happened in December of last year, instigated the new agreement. Satellites played a vital role in the discovery of climate change and the further actions that countries have already carried out. In fact, out of the 50 important climate factors, 26 can only be monitored from space. These include sea level rise and atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulations. Putting into action the Paris climate conference plans heavily depends on being able to monitor whether countries are meeting their pledges or not. To do this, experts should look at satellites. On April 3, space agencies from across the world decided to build an independent international system that will centralize the data received by satellites. This agreement, called the New Delhi Declaration, was formally implemented on May 16. Now, the objective is to synchronize the satellite information so they can be put together and be studied for comparison over time. "It is overwhelming to see the unilateral support of all space agencies to use space inputs for monitoring climate change," says ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar. Satellites that observe the Earth give important techniques of getting climate measurements from an international view, he adds. ISRO is engaged in supporting earth observation data via the help of satellites and with the implementation of improvements to meet present and future needs. CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall says the agreement is a momentous event that is more than just success for the space industry. The collaboration also shows what kind of triumph can be attained via international unity. With this agreement, space scientists may now access the materials to exhibit their talents, knowledge and enthusiasm to work for the humanity and for the welfare of the Earth, he adds. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Cluster of three LAXPC instruments in AIT (clean room) before integration into ASTROSAT. Credit: JS Yadav TIFR, and ISRO ASTROSAT is India's first dedicated science space mission which was launched on 28 September 2015. The Large Area X-ray Propositional Counter (LAXPC), designed and developed at TIFR, Mumbai, is one of the major payloads on ASTROSAT. The LAXPC instrument became fully operational on 19 October 2015 for the first time in space. A cluster of three co-aligned identical detectors provides a large area of collection of about 8000 cm2. LAXPC will provide the largest effective area among all the satellite missions flown so far, worldwide, and will remain so for the next 10 years, for X-ray studies in the 3-80 keV energy range. The large detection volume (15 cm depth) filled with xenon gas at ~ 2 atmospheres pressure, results in detection efficiency greater than 50%, above 30 keV. The first light from LAXPC has allowed us to observe Black hole X-ray binaries, Microquasars, X-ray pulsars, Active Galactic nuclei (AGN)s and Supernova remnants, providing us with very high quality data. The LAXPC instrument is functioning perfectly and has achieved all detector parameters/goals as proposed initially. The LAXPC instrument is more efficient than NASA's highly successful RXTE/PCA X-ray mission, above 20 keV, and it shows better spectral and timing characteristics. The LAXPC detectors have the largest collecting area among any X-ray instrument ever built in the world, and have been designed and developed at TIFR, Mumbai. It is a large payload with a total of eight flight packages (414 kg out of 730 kg of all five science payloads). Designing and fabricating this payload was highly challenging and took a decade to come to fruition. Prof. P. C. Agrawal initiated the design and development of the LAXPC payload in 2002. Prof. R. K. Manchanda took over in 2011. When he retired in November, 2012, Prof. J. S. Yadav took over the development of the LAXPC payload. Also, Prof. H. M. Antia played a leading role in developing the GEANT4 simulation for the LAXPC detectors in record time. The LAXPC instrument is best suited to explore extreme conditions such as strong gravity regions, extremely powerful accelerators in the universe and regions of the highest densities & magnetic fields. The primary objectives are to study binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, accretion flow, accretion disk- radio jet connection, estimation of the magnetic fields of neutron stars, and to study Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs) and blazer systems beyond our galaxy. ASTROSAT is a big step for the Indian astronomy community and the LAXPC instrument is expected to play a leading role in many exciting new discoveries. ASTROSAT is now undergoing a 6 month phase of calibration and performance verification. ASTROSAT will be open to national and international astronomers after a year, when the 6 month guaranteed time phase (for instrument teams) is completed. Explore further: Leicester set to fly high in India's first-ever national astronomy mission
Grants guaranteed The UK government has announced that it will guarantee existing research grants from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 funding programme after the country leaves the EU. UK researchers receive billions of euros from the €75-billion (US$84-billion) programme. June’s referendum vote to leave the EU left British scientists worried that funding for projects spanning several years could be taken away. But on 13 August, the government said that it would cover any shortfalls in these grants, provided that an organization has bid for them before the United Kingdom leaves the EU (a date that has not yet been fixed). See go.nature.com/2aoa7gi for more. US finds Zika funds The US government will put US$81 million towards the study of potential vaccines against the Zika virus, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced on 11 August. The money, which is to be reallocated from other projects, will be divided between the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which will receive $34 million, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which will receive $47 million. Even so, the NIH estimates that it will need another $196 million for Zika vaccine research in the 2017 fiscal year. Polio returns to Nigeria after two years Nigeria has recorded its first cases of wild poliovirus in more than two years — a setback to the global campaign to eradicate the disease. The country will now start emergency vaccination campaigns to hold back the virus’s spread. Nigeria’s government found two children in the northeastern Borno state who had been paralysed by polio in July, the World Health Organization announced on 11 August. The country had been on the brink of wiping out polio; its last recorded case had been in July 2014. See go.nature.com/2bccf92 for more. Quantum satellite China launched the world’s first quantum satellite on 16 August. The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) mission, which lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China, successfully entered orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometres. During its two-year mission, QUESS will test the limits of the quantum phenomenon known as entanglement by observing whether entangled photons remain linked across 1,200 kilometres, eight times the distance so far achieved in free space. It will also test ways to ‘teleport’ information between the satellite and Earth using entangled photons. ChemRxiv coming The American Chemical Society announced on 10 August that it wants to establish a preprint site for chemistry called ChemRxiv. The site would allow chemists to share early results and data online before publication. The repository would follow the physics preprint server arXiv and the bioRxiv for biologists. Chemists have historically been reluctant to publicly share manuscripts before peer review. One reason is that some major journals in the discipline discourage posting work online before submission. See go.nature.com/2bn7clg for more. Corruption case India’s Central Bureau of Investigation has charged the former chair of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), G. Madhavan Nair, and seven leading officials in a corruption case. The group includes former employees of the ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix, and officials of the satellite company Devas Multimedia in Bangalore. They have been accused of cheating, corruption and conspiracy to make financial gains by abusing their positions in a deal between Antrix and Devas. In 2011, Antrix scrapped a 2005 contract with Devas, citing security concerns amid allegations of corruption. Nair, who was head of Antrix as well as the ISRO, signed off the deal. Devas took the case to the courts, and two international arbitration proceedings have ruled in the company’s favour. Solar-storm war risk A study has revealed for the first time how a solar storm in May 1967 nearly caused the US military to launch planes for war — until Air Force researchers realized that ballistic early-warning radars were being jammed by energetic solar particles, and not by the Soviet Union (D. J. Knipp et al. Space Weather http://doi.org/bn5x; 2016). Since then, the Department of Defense has continued to invest heavily in space-weather forecasting. A team led by Delores Knipp, a space physicist at the University of Colorado Boulder, disclosed the story at a meeting in Boulder on 10 August. Chimp retirement The US National Institutes of Health has released a long-awaited plan to move its research chimpanzees into permanent retirement. Under the schedule, announced by the agency on 11 August, all 360 of the agency’s chimpanzees will be moved to the federally funded Chimp Haven sanctuary (pictured) in Louisiana by 2026. The chimps, which are living in research centres in Texas and New Mexico, will be moved in small groups to keep families and social circles together. Chimp Haven currently has space for only about 75 more animals, and is constructing space for an extra 100; deaths in the ageing population are likely to make further room. More marijuana The United States is making it easier to access marijuana for research purposes. Scientists have long been able to obtain the drug from only one source — the University of Mississippi in Oxford. But in an unexpected move, the US Drug Enforcement Administration announced on 11 August that it will allow any institution to apply for permission to grow marijuana for research. The agency says that the change is motivated by a high demand from scientists and a desire to encourage research on the drug. Research on marijuana typically focuses on cannabinoids, compounds found in the drug that may alleviate chronic pain and mitigate the effects of neurological disorders. Harvard chief Leading stem-cell scientist George Daley was announced as the new dean of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, on 9 August. Daley is a long-time faculty member at the school and its affiliated hospitals. He is a former president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, which has established guidelines for the use of embryonic stem cells, and most recently, for the gene editing of human germline cells. US space projects A report on the United States’ biggest astronomy and astrophysics programmes has affirmed the country’s support for a European Space Agency-led gravitational-wave observatory. Physicists announced the first detection of gravitational waves in February; since then, the proposed space-based observatory has garnered renewed US interest. The report, released on 15 August, is a ‘midterm’ assessment of decadal funding priorities laid out in 2010 for agencies including NASA and the US National Science Foundation. The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope, which was widely favoured in 2010, is still slated for launch in the mid-2020s. Chinese sea lab China is to establish a South China Sea marine-research laboratory on Hainan island. The State Key Laboratory of Marine Resources Utilization in the South China Sea, which is due to open in November with an initial term of five years, will survey mineral and marine resources in the region. The announcement came shortly after a decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands, that censured China for transgressing international law in its attempt to claim nearly all of the South China Sea. China rejected the ruling. According to sources in state press, the laboratory will help China to “safeguard our nation’s rights”. More species protected by the US Endangered Species Act have recovered during President Barack Obama’s administration than under all other presidents combined, the US Department of the Interior announced on 11 August. Under Obama, 19 species have recovered and been delisted. This might be a result of the 43-year-old legislation finally paying dividends, and because the Obama administration has put more resources into processing delistings to counter attacks from Republicans. 21–26 August Scientists gather in Melbourne, Australia, for the International Congress of Immunology. ici2016.org 24 August The US Animal Welfare Act, the first federal law to regulate the use of animals in research, turns 50.
News Article | July 2, 2016
The international Mars mission agenda is currently a bustling one with the individual exploration plans of NASA, a number of other national space agencies, and private space firms like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Robots that are now circling the planet and rolling across its terrain for the groundbreaking agenda surely won’t lack company. Some of the projects will investigate Mars’ structure and composition, while others will seek signs of life. Experts believe that many other efforts are underway as the planet’s potential for harboring life is becoming better understood. • United States – In 2018, NASA is likely to launch its InSight lander and loft the Mars 2020 rover two years after to prove any signs of past life. It is also aiming to launch a multifunctional and next-gen orbiter toward the planet in the 2020s. • Europe – The European Space Agency and Russia have joined forces to build their two-phase, life-seeking ExoMars project. The first phase involves a methane-sniffing orbiter and an entry, descent, and landing demonstrator module – it will arrive on the planet in October. On the other hand, the second phase will launch in 2020 a drill-armed rover. • China – National officials aim to send a rover to Mars as early as 2020, as well as plan to stage a program that will collect samples from Mars to return to our planet in about 2030. • India – The Mangalyaan, its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft, went to work in September 2014. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) also partnered with NASA in investigating enhanced cooperation between their two nations in exploring Mars. • Japan – The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is contemplating the launch of a sample-return mission to one of Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, with the selected moon targeted for an early 2020s landing. • United Arab Emirates – The Middle-Eastern country is erecting a Mars orbiter to be launched by Japan in 2020, probing the connections between current and ancient planetary climate. • SpaceX – According to Musk, his firm will launch an unmanned Dragon spacecraft toward Mars as early as 2018, helping pave the way for a human touchdown in 2025.Read more details on the Mars exploration ambitions of SpaceX, which has already landed Falcon 9 rockets to demonstrate reusable booster technology for reduced mission costs and greater human spaceflight potential. “[It’s going to be] hard, risky, dangerous, difficult,” Musk told The Washington Post in an interview, with Dragon being the biggest to potentially land on the Martian surface “by a factor of 10.” The SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO dubbed it a “mind blowing” initiative, planning to reveal more mission details at a September conference. Experts said, however, that these countries and companies have no single goal of reaching the Red Planet. While NASA is not chiefly eyeing the detection of extant Mars life, the ExoMars mission of Europe is publicly proclaiming its aim to find evidence of life, while the Mangalyaan of India is already on the prowl for methane from orbit as a potential sign of life. China, on the other hand, may do things in earnest with their biotech expertise and may not completely focus on life seeking. UAE for its part looks preoccupied with offering the technical and human capacity building for the mission. The Mars agenda, however, isn’t a race, but a show of “world interest in the Martian frontier” for extending humanity’s imagination and technological abilities for conquest, according to NASA chief scientist James Garvin from the Goddard Space Flight Center. “Science is never really a race. The quest for understanding moves forward in fits and starts, as discoveries are made," Garvin told Space.com. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and French President Francois Hollande shake hands prior to their meeting in New Delhi on January 25, 2016 (AFP Photo/Prakash Singh) More New Delhi (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande vowed Monday not to weaken his resolve against terrorism as he held talks with India's leader on security cooperation and a long-delayed defence deal. Hollande said he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had agreed to step up cooperation on counter-terrorism after deadly attacks on Paris in November that recalled the 2008 assault on Mumbai. But they failed to reach a final agreement on India's long-delayed purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from the French company Dassault. The French president said a new video which threatens countries of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group would only strengthen France's resolve, which was tested by November's deadly attacks in Paris. "These odious provocations only serve to further increase the resolve that we have, that I have, to protect French people through the decisions that I have taken... but also to hit, and hit again, this organisation that threatens us and kills our children," he said. Hollande made the comments after talks with Modi that focused on security cooperation following the Paris attacks. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, in the customary Republic Day eve address to the nation, called for a unified global approach to tackle terrorism. "Nations will never agree on everything; but the challenge today is existential. Terrorists seek to undermine order by rejecting the very basis of strategic stability," Mukherjee said. "Terrorism is inspired by insane objectives, motivated by bottomless depths of hatred," he added. Modi had also spoken of his and Hollande's joint resolve to increase security cooperation, recalling a deadly raid earlier this month on an Indian military base near the Pakistan border. "President Hollande and I have agreed to scale up the range of our counter-terrorism cooperation in a manner that helps us to tangibly mitigate and reduce the threat of extremism and terrorism to our societies," he said. Modi was speaking alongside the French president, whose visit had raised fresh expectations that the Rafale deal would be finalised after years of tortuous negotiations. A joint statement said the leaders welcomed the conclusion of an intergovernmental agreement on the purchase, but that "some financial issues" remained outstanding. A senior French official told reporters on Sunday the two sides were still haggling over the price, which experts say could reach around five billion euros ($5.6 billion). One sticking point is Delhi's insistence that arms makers invest a percentage of the value of any major deal in India. Manufacturer Dassault Aviation hailed the accord Monday, saying in a statement it "actively supports the French authorities in finalising a full accord within four weeks". Hollande will be chief guest at Tuesday's Republic Day parade in New Delhi, an invitation Modi extended to show solidarity after the assault on the French capital which killed 130 people. Earlier, he said the extremist threat weighed as heavily on France as on India, recently hit by the deadly attack on a military base near the border with Pakistan. The 17-minute video put out by the IS group describes the Paris attackers as "lions" who "brought France to its knees" and urges Muslims in France to rise up against the country's leaders. It features the heads of Hollande, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and British Prime Minister David Cameron with targets superimposed on them, and purports to show nine jihadists involved in November's slaughter. "Nothing will deter us, no threat will make France waver in the fight against terrorism," Hollande told reporters. "These images only serve to discredit the perpetrators of this crime." Hollande and Modi will sit together at the annual parade, a pomp-filled spectacle of military might which includes columns of Soviet-era tanks. On Monday the atmosphere was distinctly more down-to-earth as the two leaders took the metro for their journey to the satellite city of Gurgaon. There, they were set to lay the foundation stone at the new headquarters of the International Solar Alliance, a 121-nation group launched by Modi at the recent Paris climate conference to expand affordable solar power. Hollande has expressed hope that some of the French businesses travelling with him will be at the forefront of the solar energy push. The leaders are expected to announce a pact between France's CNES and India's ISRO space agencies for a joint satellite dedicated to climate change research.