Category Archives: Science and Fiction
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The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Wednesday rehearsed a group of six manoeuvres, simulating the raising of the apogee of its Mars orbiter which the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25) put into earth-bound orbit of 247 km x 23,566 km on Tuesday.
The rehearsal took place from the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) station in Bangalore. These manoeuvres were rehearsed without actually firing the 440 Newton engine on board the Mars orbiter. But in reality, the first of these orbit-raising manoeuvres will take place at 1.50 a.m. on Thursday and the last on December 1. Commands will go out from the ISTRAC station to the spacecraft to fire the 440 Newton engine for raising the apogee.
The engine will be fired when the Mars orbiter is at its perigee so that the apogee will become more elliptical. The D-day is on December 1 when a prolonged firing of the 440 Newton engine will catapult the Mars orbiter out of the earth-centric orbit into the sun-centric orbit. Then the orbiter will coast around the Sun for nine months and at last captured into the Martian orbit on September 24, 2014.
M. Annadurai, Programme Director, Indian Remote-Sensing Satellites (IRS) and Small Satellites Systems (SSS), ISRO, said on Wednesday, “We did the rehearsal of everything today in a controlled way except firing the engine and we have come back to the normal.” India’s Mars Orbiter Mission comes under the IRS programme. When the 440 Newton engine aboard the Mars spacecraft is fired on Thursday at 1.50 a.m, the apogee will be raised to 28,793 km. However, its present perigee of 247 km will more or less remain the same. “The six firings will be done when the orbiter is in the perigee. The whole sequence has been rehearsed. We supervised whether all went well,” he said.
Spacecraft’s health Condition is normal
“The overall health of the spacecraft is normal. Systems on the orbiter such as gyros, accelerometer and star-sensors have been calibrated. In the spacecraft, everything is working perfectly,” Dr. Annadurai said. ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan told a press conference at Sriharikota on October 30 that after the Mars orbiter’s apogee is raised first on November 7 to 28,793 km, the second firing of the engine will take place on November 8 early morning. This second firing will take the orbiter’s apogee to about 40,000 km from the earth. The third orbit-raising operation will take place on November 9 when the apogee will be boosted to about 70,656 km. The fourth orbit-raising operation will take place on November 11 when the apogee will reach about one lakh km. The fifth manoeuvre will be done on November 16 when the apogee will reach 1.99 lakh km from the earth.
Dr. Radhakrishnan added: “We will then a have a crucial event — the trans-Martian injection [of the orbiter] from the earth-orbit towards Mars, which will take place at 0042 hours on December 1. This is the quick action programme for the Mars orbiter. We have a long voyage of 300 days.
On September 24, 2014, we are planning to have the Mars orbit insertion of the spacecraft. Once it is successfully done, we will go for the experiments.”
The orbiter has five scientific instruments for analysing the Mars’ surface features, to find out whether it has methane and to study its mineralogy and the atmosphere.
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New Delhi: India launches its first mission to Mars on Tuesday, targeting to become the only Asian nation to arrive at the Red Planet with a programme designed to showcase its low-cost space technology.
A rocket carrying a 1.35-tonne unmanned probe will blast off at 02:38pm (0908 GMT) from the Sriharikota spaceport off the southeast coast, beginning a 300-day travel to study the Martian atmosphere.
“The countdown is progressing well, as scheduled,” said Deviprasad Karnik, spokesman for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). “The weather is quite normal. Slightly cloudy but no problem.”
The Mars Orbiter Mission, known as “Mangalyaan” in India, was declared 15 months ago by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shortly after a Chinese probe flopped when it failed to leave earth’s atmosphere.
The timing led to speculation that India was seeking to make a point to its militarily and economically superior neighbour, despite denials from ISRO.
“We are in competition with ourselves in the areas that we have charted for ourselves,” ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan told AFP last week. “Each country has its own priorities.”
The golden-coloured probe, about the size of a small car or very big refrigerator, has been hurriedly assembled and will be carried by a rocket much smaller than American or Russian equivalents.
Lacking the power to fly directly, the 350-tonne launch vehicle will orbit earth for nearly a month, building up the necessary velocity to break free from our planet’s gravitational pull.
Only then will it begin the second stage of its nine-month journey which will test India’s scientists to the full, five years after they sent a probe called Chandrayaan to the moon.
More than half of all Mars projects have failed, including China’s in 2011 and Japan’s in 2003. Only the United States, Russia and the European Union have successfully reached there.
“I was very nervous during the moon mission, but after seeing the precision with which our people took Chandrayaan to the orbit I have to be confident,” top Indian space scientist Jitendra Nath Goswami told AFP.
The total price of the project is just 4.5 billion rupees ($73 million), a fraction of foreign equivalents.
There have been recent setbacks for India, however, including when Chandrayaan lost contact with its controllers in 2009 and when a new larger launch vehicle blew up after take-off in 2010.
India has never before tried an inter-planetary journey which has required the development of technology enabling the probe to run autonomously. Communication signals take 12 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars.
“The greatest problem is to understand the navigation issue from the earth’s orbit to the Martian orbit,” ISRO chief Radhakrishnan told AFP.
The programme also has to contend with domestic critics who say a country that fights to feed its people adequately and where more than half have no toilets should not be splurging on space travel.
“An improvement of basic social indicators should be the priority and then we can have many missions to Mars,” activist Shivani Chaudhry from the New Delhi-based Housing and Land Rights Network told AFP.
ISRO counters that its technology has facilitated with economic development through satellites which monitor weather and water resources, or enable communication in remote parts of the country.
The Bangalore-based organisation and its 16,000 staff also share their rocket technology with the state-run defence body responsible for India’s rapidly evolving missile programme.
The United States is the only nation that has successfully sent robotic explorers to land on Mars, the most recent being Curiosity, a nearly one-tonne vehicle which touched down in August 2012.
One of its discoveries appeared to undercut the purpose of the Indian mission which is to find evidence of methane which would lend credence to the idea of Mars supporting a primitive form of life.
A study of data from Curiosity brought out in September found that the rover had detected only trace elements of methane in the Martian atmosphere.
“Remember that it (Curiosity’s methane reading) is for a single spot. One point doesn’t make it a story for the whole planet,” said Goswami, who was lead scientist for the moon mission.
NASA, which will launch its own probe to study Mars on November 18, is helping ISRO with communications. Two ships stationed in the Pacific will also assist with monitoring.
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A team of astronomers, including an Indian-origin scientist, has found out the most distant galaxy in the universe ever found which is said to be 13 billion light years away from the Earth.
“Because of its very large distance of 13 billion light years, we are seeing this galaxy as it was 13 billion years ago. In other words, we are searching the universe when it was only 700 million years old — the current age of the universe is about 13.7 billion years,” Dr Vithal Tilvi, who is currently at the Texas A&M University and a co-author of the research paper, said.
“This discovering is a great deal in astronomy not only because it is the most distant galaxy ever found but also because it gives us clues about the young universe,” Tilvi told PTI.
Born in Goa and having attended Goa University, Tilvi has also worked at the National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula, and National Antarctic Research Center, Vasco.
The results of the latest findings have been published in the most prestigious international journal ‘the Nature’.
This work was led by Dr Steve Finkelstein at University of Texas with many other astronomers including Dr Casey Papovich in the US.
“While we are thrilled about this discovery, we were more amazed to find only a single galaxy at such large distances because we were expecting to find more. This is telling us something that the Universe was fundamentally different when it was young,” Tilvi said.
“Another surprise came to us when we discovered that this galaxy is forming stars enormously, roughly about 300 Sun-like stars every year, compared to only about one Sun-like star produced in our own Milky Way galaxy. It is possible that when the Universe was young, galaxies were more active then they are now,” he said.
“We are very fortunate to be born now, because after a few billion years the size of the universe will be so large that the light from such galaxies would never reach us and thus we won’t see these galaxies,” he pointed out.
“It is truly exciting time to be in astronomy as new large telescopes like Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope are being built now. India is also a partner in the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. When completed, this will be the largest telescope in the world,” Tilvi added
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Petrol price tipped to keep falling as Australian dollar goes up and global oil costs drop – worldleaks
Australian motorists are set to gain from further falls in petrol prices in the weeks ahead, as global oil prices wane and the local currency remains strong.
Figures from the Australian Institute of Petroleum show the national average price of unleaded petrol fell by 3 cents to $1.48 per litre last week.
That is its lowest level in four months.
CommSec chief economist Craig James says there is scope for another 3 cent drop in the next two weeks.
“Consumers are very, very cautious about spending their money, and if there’s a few extra dollars back in their wallet, if the petrol price is falling rather than growing, that tends to improve people’s confidence levels,” he said.
“It gives them a greater purchasing power, and hopefully for retailers’ point of view – that means greater spending at shopping malls and the like.”
The Australian dollar has climbed back above 96 US cents, after reaching as high as 97 US cents last week.
At 3pm (AEST), it was worth 96.06 US cents.
West Texas Crude oil is trading at $US97.35 a barrel, while Tapis Crude is at $US114.92 per barrel.
Wholesale and retail price gap ‘still too high’
Mr James says there has been a fall in the margin petrol retailers are making on sales in recent weeks, but he believes the gap between retail and wholesale prices remain too high.
Earlier this month, the gap grew to 13.9 cents per litre – just below the highest level on record.
Last week it fell to 11.3 cents per litre.
Mr James says fuel retailers appear to be making excessive profits at a time when motorists should be enjoying far better savings on petrol.
“That’s still above the longer term averages and if we saw further easing in that gap, that margin, then that would provide even more savings for Aussie consumers,” he said.
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