Author Archives: Ritesh R Jaiswal

Lasers to distroy Space Junk


An Australian team is working on a project to zap orbital debris with lasers from Earth to reduce the growing amount of space junk that threatens to knock out satellites with a “cascade of collisions”.

Scientists believe there are more than 300,000 pieces of debris in space, made up of everything from tiny screws and bolts to large parts of rockets, mostly moving in low orbits around Earth at tremendous speed. Australia now has a contract with Nasa, the US space agency, to track and map space junk with a telescope equipped with an infra-red laser at Mount Stromlo Observatory.

$20 million from the Australian government and $40 million in private investment will help the team set up as the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to develop better lasers to track tiny pieces of debris, importing techniques from astronomy used to remove the blurring of the atmosphere.

The ultimate aim is to increase the power of the lasers to illuminate and zap pieces of junk so they burn up harmlessly as they fall through the upper atmosphere.

[Credit – TOI]

No visa for PIOs coming for Surrogacy


Union Home Ministry issued an order on 6 March 2014 saying that an Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) can visit India without a medical visa for commissioning surrogacy. This facility will be applicable for those couples who are married for at least two years and will only require permission only from the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or the Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO).

They must, however, carry a letter from their country, issued by the Foreign Ministry or the Embassy here, saying it recognised surrogacy and that the child born thus would be permitted entry as the couple’s biological offspring.

The couple should furnish an undertaking that they would take care of the child. Treatment should be done only at registered assisted reproductive technology clinics recognised by the Indian Council of Medical Research. The couple will have to produce a notarised agreement between them and the prospective surrogate mother.

Before granting the child exit, the FRRO/FRO will confirm that the couple had taken the required permission and certificates for commissioning surrogacy, and liabilities due to the surrogate mother have been settled. The office will retain a copy of the birth certificate.

The wife of a foreign national or an OCI/PIO cardholder who is not involved in the treatment may not require a specific medical visa.

OCI & PIO Cardholders

The OCI card is issued to foreign nationals who were eligible to become citizens of India on January 26, 1950, or were Indian citizens on or after that date with eligibility based on lineage. The PIO card is issued to a person of Indian origin who is a citizen of any country other than Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, China or Nepal or who has held an Indian passport at any time or is the spouse of an Indian citizen or a Person of Indian Origin.

[Credit – The Hindu]

NASA Tests Robotic Refueling Technologies

manned space mission

NASA has successfully concluded a remotely controlled test of new technologies to empower future space robots to repair and refuel future satellites in space. The Remote Robotic Oxidiser Transfer Test (RROxiTT) has been created by the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

According to NASA experts, the robotic refuelling technologies would be of great use for space technology. This technology will equip robots and humans with the tools and capabilities needed for spacecraft maintenance and repair.

By developing robotic capabilities to repair and refuel geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites, NASA hopes to add precious years of functional life to satellites and expand options for operators who face unexpected emergencies, tougher economic demands and ageing fleets. NASA also hopes that these new technologies will help boost the commercial satellite-servicing industry that is rapidly gaining momentum.

Besides aiding the GEO satellite community, a capability to fix and relocate “ailing” satellites also could help mitigate the growing orbital debris problem that threatens continued space operations, ultimately making space greener and more sustainable.

[Credit – NASA]

Environment ministry clears Kerala demand on Western Ghats


The centre has accepted the Kerala government’s recommendations to keep agricultural land, plantations, and habitations out of the ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs) identified by an expert committee on the conservation of the Western Ghats.

“Recommendations of the state government were examined by the ministry of environment and forests and it has been decided to accept these recommendations in respect of Kerala, regarding ESA boundaries,” the ministry said in a release.

The state government constituted an expert committee to study the impact of the Kasturirangan Committee recommendations. It also set up panchayat-level committees in 123 villages falling within the ESAs as identified by the high-level working group, for undertaking field verification.

The ministry also decided to consider similar proposals of other states in Western Ghats region if forwarded within 60 days of the draft notification, it said. The Kasturirangan Committee recommendations led to a major controversy last year, with people complaining that it was prohibiting even plantation activities in the Western Ghats.

Feltering Clean Water from Xylem


Researchers from MIT have been able to filter water using plant xylem. In tests conducted with deionised water in which bacteria and dye were introduced, the xylem filter effectively removed both when subjected to pressure.

Xylem is a transport tissue in vascular plants that conducts water and dissolved nutrients upwards from the roots. Tracheids, which are cells in the xylem, are shorter and have smaller diameters in conifers, thereby offering higher resistance to flow but a greater cross-sectional area of the stem to conducting xylem tissue. This likely makes it the most suitable xylem tissues for filtration at the micron or larger scale.

The researchers prepared the xylem filter by removing the bark of pine tree branches and then inserting it into a tube. The pressure that was used for this study suggests that it is easily achievable using a gravitational pressure head. The device construction therefore seems to be simple, considering that the wood might have to be replaced often.

While these initial results are cause for optimism, the fact remains that these tests were conducted under laboratory conditions. This filter should work with real-world water samples.

NASA’s Europa Mission in 2025


NASA is planning to send a robotic mission by 2025 to Jupiter’s watery moon Europa, one of the most likely place for alien life beyond Earth in our solar system. Europa is one of the solar system’s most mysterious moons. There may be a vast ocean beneath Europa’s icy crust, with more water in it than exists on all of Earth.

A little bit of that water may be erupting from geysers near the Europa’s south pole, sending plumes 200 kilometers into the air, a recent study has found. Scientists can send a spacecraft flying through these jets in order to sample their composition.

The American space agency has set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning a mission to Europa. NASA will look at many competing ideas for a Europa mission, so the agency does not yet know how big or how much it will cost.

INS Sumedha for Indian Navy


INS ‘Sumedha’, an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) indigenously designed and built by Goa Shipyard Ltd. (GSL), for the Indian Navy, will be formally commissioned by Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Flag Officer, Commander-In-Chief, East on Friday 7 March 2014 at GSL in South Goa.

This warship is the culmination of many years of in-house design development and ship build techniques. The commissioning of this ship marks a significant milestone in GSL’s and country’s march towards indigenization and self reliance.

Sumedha is 200th ship indigenously built by GSL. GSL is the only yard which has delivered four classes of OPVs to both Navy and Coast Guard. INS ‘Sumedha’ is the third of the new 105 meter class of NOPV and the largest ship constructed by GSL for the Indian Navy. This state-of-the- art ship will help meet the increasing requirement of the Indian Navy for undertaking ocean surveillance and surface warfare operations in order to prevent infiltration and transgression of maritime sovereignty, said the spokesperson.

[Credit – The Hindu]

Bio-Jet-Fuel: For Green and Sustainable Aviation

bio jet

Based on pilot plant studies of a state-of-the-art process developed by the Indian Institute of Petroleum here, a unit in a refinery is being revamped to yield 40,000 tonnes a year of bio-aviation turbine fuel at competitive rates. It will be blended with fossil jet fuel for running commercial flights.

M.O. Garg, Director of the Institute, disclosed this at a National Science Day workshop on ‘Bio-Jet Fuel-A Key to Future Green and Sustainable Aviation’ held here on Saturday.

He said that under the recently developed process, renewable aviation fuel was produced fromJatropha curcas oil through a non-noble metal catalyst. Pratt & Whitney, Canada, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. are collaborating in the project. They have tested our fuel for its physio-chemical and performance characteristics.

Mr. Garg said there was a worldwide interest in reducing the carbon footprint of civil aviation. The carbon tax imposed by Australia and the European Union on the aviation indus-try prompted airlines to run their flights on bio-fuel.

[Credit – The Hindu]

Jan-Aushadhi – To promote Generic Drugs


With a view to promoting affordable and effective generic drugs, the Centre has asked the States to provide space in government hospitals for their sale so that more Jan Aushadhi Stores could be opened.

In a direct market intervention strategy, the Department of Pharmaceuticals launched the Jan Aushadhi Scheme in 2008 to make available and improve access to medicines at affordable prices. However, the scheme did not do well as expected and the government now proposes to launch a major publicity campaign to make people aware of the benefits of generic medicines. There is a huge price difference between branded and generic drugs. This despite generic medicines being as good as branded products.

The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers proposes to open 3,000 outlets during the 12th Five Year Plan period. More than 150 Jan Aushadhi Stores have already been opened. The Department of Pharmaceuticals has now written to the State governments, asking them to provide space in government hospitals and identify operating agencies to run Jan Aushadhi Stores. To ensure uninterrupted availability of all medicines at the stores, the Centre has already directed that doctors in public facilities prescribe generic drugs.

The prices of almost all generic drugs are much lower than branded medicines, more so of life-saving drugs, antibiotics and anti-diabetic drugs. A branded pack of 10 tablets of paracetamol, sold at Rs. 9, costs only Rs. 3 at a Jan Aushadhi Store.

[Credit – The Hindu]

Algae – A viable source of Biofuel


Scientists around the world are experimenting with making cheaper alternative energies for our future, in a step further, a team of scientists at Michigan State University (MSU) has invented a new technology that will boost the research and production of algae-based bio-fuels.

The team’s invention —the environmental photobioreactor (ePBR system) — is the world’s first standard algae growing platform. The bioreactors are about the size of coffee makers and can induce changes in light, temperature, carbon dioxide, oxygen, evaporation, nutrient availability and more to simulates dynamic natural environments.

The ePBR system is like a pond in a jar that helps identify, cultivate, and test algal strains that have the potential to make the leap from lab to pond — proliferate in real-world, real-pond settings and produce the most oil.

Many scientists around the globe are looking for strains of algae that could become a sustainable source of alternative energy. Biggest problem they face is that algal strains that perform well in labs often down-perform in real environment.

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