Up And Above To Mars: History And Future

Up And Above To Mars: History And Future

UAE’s United Arab Emirates Space Agency, USA’s NASA and China’s CNSA are planning to launch back to back missions to Mars this month. With Elon Musk sticking to his ambitions of SpaceX sending human flights the red planet, what’s in it for us space enthusiasts?

Crux of the Matter

July, The Month Of Mars?
Three missions are planned to reach the red planet, Mars this month, the last one being NASA’s car-sized Perseverance rover, which will hunt for signs of life after its launch on July 30, 2020.

Meet NASA’s Perseverance!

The United Arab Emirates’ first-ever interplanetary effort, the Hope Mars mission, also called the Emirates Mars Mission is scheduled to launch on July 14 and reach the destination in early 2021.

Meet UAE Space Agency’s Hope!

Finally, on July 23, China’s first-ever fully homegrown mission – Tianwen-1, is scheduled to take off. The authorities remain reticent about the landing date and the exact mission.

Meet China Space Agency’s Tianwen-1!

Combined Plan Of Action?
The United States and Europe plan to bring the mysterious red planet’s material to Earth for further studies, in a space campaign planned by NASA and ESA in the year 2031. Scientists and astro-enthusiasts around the world will then scrutinize the material in-depth, looking for signs of life and clues about the red planet’s evolutionary history.

What Is Mangalyaan Up To?
Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) recently captured an alluring image of Mars’ biggest moon, Phobos.

Initially meant to last six months when it was launched on November 5, 2013, the mission got extended as authorities suggested it had fuel to make the rover last for “many years.”

ISRO’s brainchild Mangalyaan or MOM

Since then, it has been meticulously studying the planet’s surface and mineral composition by scanning the atmosphere for methane, which could be an indicator of Martian life.

What’s The Hurry?
All three nations – US, UAE, and China – have their own agenda in this common goal:

NASA’s primary dream since its inception has been to explore space. Subsequently, it has been sending robot probes to the red planet since the Mariner 4 in the mid-1960s. Unraveling its mystery would be a historical event of this century, surpassing its legendary Apollo moon landing.

China is planning such expeditions with an ambition of establishing its very own crewed space station. This would enhance its stature as a major space power.

The UAE is well aware that its oil and gas availability is losing its old appeal. This it has embarked on a national mission to create a high-tech economy, that would include an advanced space mission to Mars.

Successful Mars Exploration Missions From The Past

  • Mars Global Surveyor (1996 – 1997)
  • Spirit Rover (2003 – 2004)
  • Opportunity Rover (2003 – 2004)
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2005 – 2006)
  • Phoenix (2007 – 2008)
  • Curiosity (2012 – until now)
  • NASA’s Viking project (first mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of another planet, 1975-1976)
Snapshot of ice on Mars, taken by Viking Lander 2, Source: Twitter

What Does The Future Hold For U?
With the success of Elon Musk‘s spaceflight company SpaceX’s first manned mission, Crew Dragon Demo-2, earlier this year, there would be full focus on the development on the ambitious Starship project.

Heavy-lift launch vehicle, SpaceX Starship

Set to be a next-generation spacecraft, the 50m tall, reusable beast was unveiled last year and is designed to carry a crew and cargo “to the moon, Mars or anywhere else in the solar system”, as per Musk. The tech billionaire is also open about his ambitious vision of building a colony on the red planet in this lifetime, with the first rocket propelling humans to the Red Planet by 2025.

How an artist imagines life to be at Mars, Source:Inverse
  • Asaph Hall III was an American astronomer who is most famous for having discovered the moons of Mars in 1877. The two moons are Deimos and Phobos, which are named after twin brothers in greek mythology which personify terror and fear respectively.
  • Mars One was a small private Dutch organization that received money from investors by claiming it would use it to land the first humans on Mars and leave them there to establish a permanent human colony. From its announcement in 2012 to its bankruptcy in early 2019, it is estimated to have received tens of millions of dollars.
  • A Princess of Mars is a science fantasy novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of his Barsoom series. The story is set on Mars, imagined as a dying planet with a harsh desert environment. This vision of Mars was based on the work of the astronomer Percival Lowell, whose ideas were widely popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Percival Lawrence Lowell was an American businessman, author, mathematician, and astronomer who fueled speculation that there were canals on Mars. He founded the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and formed the beginning of the effort that led to the discovery of Pluto 14 years after his death.

More Bad News From China: First Covid-19, Now Plague And Flu

China Does It Again: First Covid-19, Now Plague And Flu

After the coronavirus pandemic that shook the world this year, China is being seen as a potential epicentre for Bubonic Plague after a herder got infected with it and the onset of a new Swine Flu virus strain. Time to know more about the current situation there and what virologists and authorities have to say about this.

Crux of the Matter

Bubonic Plague In Mongolia
A bubonic plague case was discovered in Bayannur, Inner Mongolia on July 4. Local Chinese authorities have issued a citywide Level 3 warning for plague prevention, the second-lowest in a four-level system.

A bubonic plague smear taken from the patient, Source: Getty Images

The warning will stay enforced until the end of the year as experts have urged people to take extra precautions like avoiding hunting or eating animals like sick marmots or large ground squirrels, that could cause infection.

Why Is It So Scary?
Plague is caused by bacteria and transmitted via flea bites and infected animals. Bubonic plague, which is one of the plague’s most alarming three forms as it causes painful, swollen lymph nodes, along with symptoms like fever, chills, and coughing.

The grotesque scene outside almost all homes during the Black Death, Source: History

It is said to be one of the deadliest bacterial infections in human history as it can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time. During the dreaded ‘Black Death‘ period in the Middle Ages, it killed up to 200 million people in Eurasia & North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.

Another ‘Pandemic Potential’ Flu?
Researchers in China have discovered new flu that’s a mix of human H1N1 flu, responsible for causing the Swine Flu due to pigs and avian-based flu, caused by birds.

The H1N1 strain that causes Swine Flu, Source: Wikipedia

Even though there has been a range of worrisome headlines, there has been no case of human-to-human transmission of this particular strain of the virus. In fact it’s great that the strain was detected early, giving virologists time to study it more by developing new tests.

What Can Go Wrong Then?
Virologists did find evidence that the new virus could spread by aerosol droplets from ferret to ferret i.e surrogates for humans in flu studies. Infected ferrets lost weight and acquired lung damage, just like those who became sick due to the seasonal human H1N1 flu strains.

Infectious disease scholars call the strain a PPP, a potential pandemic pathogen only because of its ‘availability‘ in the environment since it’s first recognition in the 1900s and its ability to circulate from pigs to humans.

But What Is Swine Flu?
H1N1 virus or pig influenza, swine flu is a human respiratory infection caused by an influenza strain (G4) that started in pigs. Since it’s reception in 1919, it circulates as a seasonal flu virus and has killed 284,000+ people worldwide. However, both the vaccine, developed by Pandemrix and Celvapan and medicine, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), are available for the treatment of swine flu.

Better Prepared This Time?
The reason for an improved influenza virus surveillance system is how from 2011 to 2018, the researchers had found G4 EA H1N1 strain in pigs. The animal-to-human transmission could later do human to human transmission as well, which became the majority strain for the swine flu virus in China in 2018.

In the meantime, WHO is keeping close tabs on these new developments and highlighting the importance of comprehensive health policies on a global level.

  • An outbreak of swine flu among Chinese pig farms in 2019 boosted the price of pork by more than 50% compared to 2018. As a result, chinese pig farmer and billionaire Qin Yinglin had a net worth jump of 340% in 2019.
  • Pandemrix is an influenza vaccine for influenza pandemics, such as the 2009 flu pandemic. The vaccine was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and patented in September 2006. The vaccine is only approved for use when an H1N1 influenza pandemic has been officially declared by the World Health Organization.
  • The initial outbreak of a novel swine-origin H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009 and the virus strain that caused it was called by many names. In July 2009, WHO experts named the virus “pandemic H1N1/09 virus” to distinguish it from both various seasonal H1N1 virus strains and the 1918 flu pandemic H1N1 strain.

Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Store

Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Store

With 59 Chinese apps banned last week by MHA, users have been scrambling to search for best substitutes for popular apps like ShareIt, ClubFactory, CamScanner and Tik Tok. PM Narendra Modi has launched ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge‘ to kickstart the startup and tech community for creating Made-In-India Apps and Solutions.

Crux of the Matter

Search For Desi, Local Alternatives
An endeavour of Ministry of Electronics and IT and Atal Innovation Mission, the Aatmanirbhar challenge would run in two tracks – promotion of existing apps and development of new apps.

The announcement stated how Track-01 will work for a month in mission mode for identifying good quality Apps for the leader-board. Track-02 on the other hand will help create new champions in India by providing support in new idea creation, incubation, prototyping, and roll out along with market access.

TikTok Burns As Chingari Lights Up
Bangalore based startup, Chingari enjoyed instant popularity in India as 2.5 million downloads happened for the video-sharing app in just 2 days. In fact, their servers crashed due to this massive spike in downloads and usage, with 500K+ users becoming active in a span of half hour.

Roposo is another content sharing and video creation app that has 65 million users and is available in more than 10 Indian languages.

Kaagaz Overwrites CamScanner
An overnight success, the Kaagaz app saw 100K downloads in 24 hours after the ban of famous document scanning app, Camscanner.

It is being considered more convenient than CamScanner as it requires no sign-in and contains no advertisements despite being free. Moreover, it generates watermark-free scans.

Shopaholics Redirected From Club Factory To Myntra
With the ban of Fashion e-commerce platforms, ClubFactory and Shein, sufficiently famous shopping platforms – Myntra and Flipkart have observed a fresh surge of Indian customers.

Flipkart, acquired by Walmart guides users through 80 crore utilitarian products ranging from gadgets to furniture. While Myntra, aquired by Flipkart itself, hawks an apparel and beauty collection of 2500+ brands and 5 lakh products. Both were ironically formed in 2007.

Move Aside UC, Jio Browser’s Here
Developed by Reliance Jio, this Indian Browser is a lightweight alternative to UC Browser that came pre-installed in all Chinese phones. It contains user-friendly features like dark theme, incognito mode, offline pages, QR code scanner, regional language support and desktop mode.

Another one called Epic browser has an inbuilt virus protection, promising fast and secure web-surfing experience.

Goodbye Zoom, Say Namaste
Video conferencing and meeting platform, Zoom was already facing privacy breach issues worldwide, before being banned in India. For a local substitute, Mumbai-based Say Namaste App is secure for multi-party voice and video solution as users’ data is protected by A256 bit encryption.

Although initially a clone of the UI and logo of Zoom, Reliance’s JioMeet offers interoperability and thus can be used in old devices as well. Plus it allows 100 members to be on a group video call for 24 hours with no restrictions, while Zoom allowed only 40 minutes before charging the call for the same ratio.

India’s Official Social Media Super App – Elyments
India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu launched Elyments yesterday, planned to compete with the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp in the nation.

India’s Vice President inaugurating Elyments

It claims to give importance to privacy and all the servers are hosted in the country itself. Available in 8 different languages, the app built by volunteers of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living, has witnessed 100K+ downloads already. Squeaksmedia is another Made-In-India app that would be released on Independence Day.

Other Made-In-India Alternatives

  • Short Video Apps – Bolo Indya and Mitron
  • Editing music video app – Photo Video Maker with Music
  • Discussion platform – HumTog
  • File Transfer App – ShareAll
  • Online Strategy game – Ludo King
  • Virus Cleaner – K7 Total Security
  • Music app – JioSaavn and Gaana
  • Manage two accounts simultaneously – Shelter
  • Virtual Dating App – Quack Quack and Happn
  • Instagram Reels, similar to TikTok, is a new feature on the app which allows its users to create and share 15-second videos with camera effects, basic editing tools and music. Reels is already active in Germany, Brazil and France.
  • Mukesh Bansal is an Indian businessman who founded Indian fashion e-commerce company Myntra. Mukesh has been listed in the Best 40 Under 40 Entrepreneurs by Fortune magazine.
  • Global Village Tech Park is a software technology park in Bangalore, India. The park is spread over 120 acres with a total built-up area of 3.3 million sq ft. It was constructed and owned until 2019 by Café Coffee Day under the brand name Tanglin.

Indian Railways’ Privatization: What To Expect?

Indian Railways Privatization: What To Expect?

The declaration of Privatization of Indian Railways occurred along with several new records made, all adding to its long history of service.

Crux of the Matter

India’s Longest Train
Indian Railways recently operated the train ‘SheshNaag’, which is the longest train of India, measuring 2.8 km for length. The operation took place in the South East Central Railway zone.

The train contains 251 wagons and 4 empty BOXN rakes and is powered by 4 electric locomotives.

Transforming Timetable
Indian Railways would implement a new timetable system, in which the schedule and frequencies of trains would be completely rewritten. A reduction of halts is expected, which would reduce the travel time for passengers. Furthermore, trains with low occupancy would be canceled.

In another record, all 201 trains run on 1 July observed ‘zero delays’, making it the first time that Indian Railways achieved 100% punctuality.

Indian Railways-Privatization
Indian government recently initiated the ‘Privatization‘ of railways, where private firms would operate on 109 routes initially while using 151 modern trains. The manufacturing of such modern trains would come under the ‘Make In India‘ scheme. The operations are expected to start in April 2023, with the trains capable of reaching the maximum speed of 160 km/h.

The firms operating would decide the fare for the next 35 years, which might increase fares along with the facilities provided.

Help In Times Of Covid-19
Indian government also operated ‘Shramiktrains to transport stranded migrant workers, and has transported ~6 million passengers to their respective places.

Besides transporting workers, Indian freight trains transported 4.58 million tonnes of food grains between 1 and 22 April alone.

An Excerpt From History Of Private Trains
‘Robber Baron’ is a term used for American Businessmen of the 19th century, who used unfair practices and controlled the majority of the country’s wealth. Several of such business tycoons gained control over American Railways and exploited them to advance personal business interests. Some notable examples of railroad Robber Barons are John Rockefeller, Leland Stanford, Jason Gould, Charles Crocker, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

History Of Indian Railways

  • 16 April, 1853: India’s first passenger train runs between Bori Bunder (Mumbai) and Thane on a Broad gauge track.
  • After 1857 rebellion, the East India Company took back contracts from external agencies and expanded total length from 4,000 miles in 1867 to 9,000 miles in 1880.
  • 3 February, 1925: First electric trains runs between Bombay and Kurla.
  • 1984: India’s first metro system opened in Calcutta.
  • 2016: Gatimaan express becomes India’s fastest train with top speed of 160 km/h.
  • According to Hindu mythology, Sheshnag means the king of snakes. It is believed by the Hindus that Sheshnag stays in the Sheshnag Lake, situated at the track leading to Amarnath cave 23 kilometers from Pahalgam in the Kashmir valley.
  • The term, Robber Baron, was based on an analogy to the German robber barons, local feudal lords or bandits in Germany who waylaid travelers through their ostensible territory, claiming some tax or fine was owed.
  • Vivek Express is a chain of express trains on the Indian Railways network. One of the Vivek Express trains, the one from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari, is the longest route on the Indian Railways network, in terms of distance and time, and is currently the 24th longest in the world. It covers a total of 4234 km from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari. It takes 79 hours to cover this distance with 57 intermediate stoppages.

New Strain In Relations Of Israel And Iran

Recent incidents at nuclear sites in Iran have added further strain to its relations with Israel, with the two being in conflict for decades.

Crux of the Matter

Iran – Nuclear Site Incidents
An explosion occurred recently at the Natanz nuclear centre in Iran. The incidents follow recent explosions at missile production sites, located near the Parchin military complex. Experts have claimed the attacks as “sabotages” and have blamed Israel. However, Israel has denied the claims.

Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us. All those systems are complex, they have very high safety constraints and I’m not sure they always know how to maintain them

Benny Gantz, Defence Minister, Israel

Possible Causes
Israel and US Apprehension
Analysts have claimed that Israel attacked the nuclear sites of Iran to hinder its nuclear development programme. The claim connects to the history of Israel, as the country and the US consider Iran’s nuclear development a threat. Starting in the 1st decade of the 21st century, the US and Israel reportedly carried on Operation Olympic Games for several years, launching cyber-attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Retaliation Over Water
Another reason being claimed by analysts is that Israel retaliated after Iran reportedly launched a cyberattack in April to contaminate Israel’s water supply.

Chinese Angle
Several experts have claimed the animosity between Israel and China as a possible cause of the incident. They have claimed that since Iran uses the JY-14 radar system made by China, Israel used its F-35 jets to test and possibly demonstrate strength against the Chinese equipment.

History Of Iran-Israel

  • Initially, both countries shared a cordial relationship. After Turkey, Iran was the 2nd Muslim majority country to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation.
  • Relations deteriorated in 1979 when the Iranian revolution occurred. New leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini broke ties with Israel and did not recognize it as an official state. Since then, Iran backs Palestine in its conflict with Israel and provides arms to it.
  • 1992: The Israeli embassy in Argentina was attacked reportedly by Iran.
  • 1994: Attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires occurs, reportedly done by Iran.
  • Iran is accused of funding the Hamas organization, which is committed to the destruction of Israel. Israel, on the other hand, allegedly supports the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, which seeks to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • 2011: Mossad, Israel’s National Intelligence Agency, reportedly attacked an Iranian military base.
  • 2012: 4 Iranian nuclear scientists were allegedly killed by Israel.

  • Pokhran is a remote location in the Thar Desert region and served as the test site for India’s first underground nuclear weapon , ballistic missiles. Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran is an Indian drama film based on the nuclear bomb test explosions conducted by the Indian Army at Pokhran in 1998.
  • The Israeli Declaration of Independence was proclaimed on 14 May 1948 by David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and soon to be the first Prime Minister of Israel. It declared the establishment to be known as the State of Israel, which would come into effect on termination of the British Mandate at midnight that day.
  • Ruhollah Khomeini was an Iranian politician, revolutionary, and cleric. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which saw the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the end of the 2,500-year-old Persian monarchy.