Tuesday, 28 October 2008

20 lakh women die in maternal mortality in south Asia

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 28: As many as 20 lakh women died in maternal mortality in south Asia including India.
According to Saira Shameen, executive director of Asian-Pacific Research and Resource Centre for Women, Malaysia, a 10 per cent of them died due to unsafe abortions. A study carried out in India, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines indicated that affordable, accessible and gender-sensitive sexual health and reproductive health care continues to be a huge challenge in the region.
Addressing a press conference on the eve of the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, here on Sunday, Shameen said India's National Rural Health Mission had drawn up a strategy to bring down maternal mortality to 100 per lakh live births by 2012. "This is based on the assumption that the market can achieve higher efficiencies in health service provision as compared to the public sector. However, the assumption that people will be able to exercise consumer independence in accessing health services is wrong because it is the seller who decides the kind of treatment and for how long it should be. This could result in profiteering from marginalised women seeking medical care," she warned.
Jane Chivers, manager, Education and Training, Family Planning, Australia, said people with disability form the largest minority in the world making up 10 per cent of the world population. This figure of 650 million people with disability is increasing every year. "There have always been deep and persistent negative stereotypes, prejudices and fears about people with a disability and particularly about their sexuality. These prejudices are consistent across most countries and cultures. They result in discriminatory practices that cause people with disabilities to live on the margins of communities where their rights are overlooked," she said.
"In countries with life expectancies over 70 years, individuals spend on average about eight years, or 11.5 per cent of their life span, living with disabilities. Disability rates are significantly higher among groups with lower educational attainment in the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. On average, 19 per cent of less educated people have disabilities, compared to 11 per cent among the better educated.
In most OECD countries, women report higher incidents of disability than men," she observed.
Sunil Mehra, co-chair of India Organising Committee of the Conference, said with some 700 million adolescents in the 10 to 19 years age group living in Asia, there will be a special focus on youth and their sexual rights and needs. with eight States in the country banning sex education in schools, the subject is relevant not only for India but for the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka where their tradition based societies are in a state of transition to modern lifestyles and western values.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Chandrayaan-1: India's Mission To The Moon Successful, Lunar Craft Put Into Orbit

A new era dawns in Indian history. India now joins the World Moon Club. We salute you, India

October 22, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 22: India wakes up to a new dawn on Wednesday as Chandrayaan-1 successfully blasts off to the moon. The first phase of the mission is successful and ISRO scientists have achieved the designed path for the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.
India’s first-ever mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, left the earth’s orbit for a close encounter with the lunar world, pushing India into a select group of moon-faring nations alongside the space giants like the US.
The indigenously built rocket, PSLV-C11, took off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Wednesday morning carrying the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, after the weatherman gave his clearance. Sriharikota, where the launch centre is located, had been witnessing inclement weather and there were some doubts about the launch. But ISRO scientists once again proved their capabilities by going ahead with the take-off the clouds and associated dangers notwithstanding.

Things went as planned and the rocket carrying the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft ignited at the fixed muhurat at 6.22 am. The final countdown progressed well and the entire scientific community in the world had set its eyes on the Indian mission to unravel the secrets hidden behind the beauty of the Moon. The Indian lunar craft will move around the Moon for two years transmitting data through radio signals to ISRO and other designated ground centres around the globe.
Chandrayaan-1 pushed India to a select group of moon-faring nations which have drawn up ambitious plans to colonise the earth's only natural satellite in the next couple of decades. Only the USA, Russia, China, Japan and ESA have sent their missions to the own. Incidentally, Chandrayaan-1 is also the first-ever multinational scientific mission outside the earth's vicinity led by a developing nation. Moreover, Chandrayaan-1 is the most technologically advanced mission to the Moon ever sent by man. This explains why even advanced space organisations like NASA and ESA are collaborating with ISRO to share the Moon data.
Once in its designated orbit about 100 km away from Moon, Chandrayaan-1 will be one of the three lunar orbitors presently hovering around the lunar world. The other two orbitors belong to Japan and China. The Americans will send their own lunar orbitor in March next year to join the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in the dark realms of the Moon. The success or otherwise of Chandrayaan-1 will make or mar the future manned missions to the Moon.
ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair congratulated the scientists associated with the project for the success of Chandrayaan-1.
The 1,380-kg Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft thrust into the Space by the indigenous PSLV-C11 rocket at around 6.20 am. It carries scientific equipment supplied by the USA and the ESA. Of the 11 scientific equipment or payloads, five are entirely designed and developed in India, three from European Space Agency, one from Bulgaria and two from the NASA.

Indian Flag on the Moon

سارے جہاں سے اچھا ہندوستاں ہمارا
ہم بلبليں ہيں اس کي، يہ گلستاں ہمارا

सारे जहां से अच्छा हिन्दोस्तां हमारा
हम बुलबुले हैं उसकी ये गुलसितां हमारा

sāre jahāñ se achchā hindostāñ hamārā
ham bulbuleñ haiñ us kī vuh gulsitāñ hamārā

(Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan (India). We are its nightingales, and it (is) our garden abode.)

Chandrayaan-1 will fulfil the ambition of a billion hearts as it carries the
Indian flag in one of its equipment that will be thrust onto the moon surface.
The only other countries that had pegged their national flags on the lunar terrain are the USA, Russia and Japan.

India overtakes its giant neighbour China as far as sending its national flag to the moon is concerned. It was the idea of former president APJ Abdul Kalam that ISRO should include the national flag in the Chandrayaan-1 mission.
Chandrayaan-1 culminates four years of scientific work at ISRO including international cooperation by leading space agencies. More than 1,000 scientists worked day and night to make India's dream mission a reality. The total cost of the project is Rs 386 crore including Rs 100 crore towards establishment charges. But if Chandrayaan-1 finds Helium 3 fuel or water on the moon, India will be able to lay claim on the lunar world when human colonies begin to spring up there. The return will be million times more than what ISRO had invested on the mission.
"Today, as per the international charter, the moon belongs to the global community. Nobody can make special claim on the surface. But in due course, we don't know how things will change. But our presence will be established through this mission," ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair told reporters.

Chandrayaan-1: How Ground Segment Receives The Signals From the Lunar Craft

October 22, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 21: If sending Chandrayaan-1 into the lunar orbit is a Herculean task, deciphering the radio signals that are sent back to the earth from the spacecraft is equally challenging.
The radio signals, beamed back by Chandrayaan-1 to the master control room in Bengaluru 4,00,000 km away from it, become quite weak. ISRO scientists will have to adopt special methods to enhance the signals to decipher the message from the first-ever lunar orbitor sent by India.
"During the various phases of its flight, Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft will send detailed information about its health to Earth through its transmitter. At the same time, the spacecraft will be ready to receive radio commands sent from Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft Control Centre instructing it to perform various tasks. Besides, the spacecraft receives, modifies and retransmits the radio waves sent by ground antennas in a precise way. This plays a crucial role in knowing its position and orbit at a particular instant of time. All these happen at 'S-band' frequencies in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum.," according to an ISRO
As Chandrayaan-1 orbits the Moon, the spacecraft sends valuable imagery and other scientific information to Earth through X-band (at a higher frequency compared to S-band), which also lies in the microwave region But, such information is transmitted through radio at a very low power of a few watts. Thus, radio signals carrying that
precious information become extremely feeble by the time they travel 4,00,000 km from the Moon and reach ISRO's ground station in Bengaluru back on the earth.
The Ground Segment of Chandrayaan-1 performs the crucial task of receiving the radio signals sent by spacecraft.
It also transmits the radio commands to be sent to the spacecraft during different phases of its mission. Besides, it processes and safe keeps the scientific information sent by Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.
ISRO scientists are armed by a number of equipment to decode the message relayed back by Chandrayaan-1, howsoever weak they are. The ground segment of ISRO includes the Indian Deep Space Network, Spacecraft Control Centre and Indian Space Science Data Centre.
"Deep Space Network performs the important task of receiving the radio signals transmitted by Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft that become incredibly feeble by the time they reach the earth. Besides, it can send commands to the spacecraft at a power level of up to 20 kilowatts," the Chandrayaan pre-launch communiqué said.
IDSN consists of two large parabolic antennas, one with 18 m and the other 32 m diameter at Byalalu, in the outskirts of Bengaluru. Of these, the 32 m antenna with its 'seven mirror beam wave guide system' is indigenously developed. The 18 m antenna can support Chandrayaan-1 mission, but the 32 m antenna can support
Chandrayaan-1 and any spacecraft mission further deep into space.
During the initial phase of the mission, besides these two antennas, other ground stations in Lucknow, Sriharikota, Thiruvananthapuram, Port Blair, Mauritius, Brunei, Biak (Indonesia) and Bearslake (Russia) as well as external network stations at Goldstone, Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, Hawaii (all three in USA), Brazil and Russia support the mission.
The Spacecraft Control Centre, located near ISTRAC campus at Peenya, North of Bengaluru, is the focal point of all the operational activities of Chandrayaan-1 during all the phases of the mission. Commands to be transmitted to Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft to maintain its health as well as to make it perform various tasks originate from here.
Experts specialising in various spacecraft subsystems as well as spacecraft mission operations personnel are stationed at SCC.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Chandrayaan-1: India Joins Helium 3 Race With the USA, Russia, China, Europe And Japan

October 21, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 20: India has joined the race for Helium-3, a replacement for fossil fuels, with the USA, Russia, Japan, Europe, and China as the countdown for the historic Chandrayaan-1 mission to the Moon began on Monday.
One of the mission objectives of India's lunar orbitor, Chandrayaan-1, is to understand the mineralogy of the Moon in much finer detail and quantify precious Helium-3 stocks buried underneath its craters. "No one is sure whether there's Helium-3 at all on the Moon. It has been thus far a scientific hypothesis. Chandrayaan-1 will make this belief a reality," astrophysicist N Sri Raghunandan Kumar said.
Once Chandrayaan-1 relays its data on the Helium-3 stocks to ISRO's master control room back home in Bengaluru, India will have a larger claim on the natural lunar resources when man begins to colonise it at a later date. India will have a greater advantage under the IPR regime, since it has not only spent Rs 386 crore on the mission but also came out with new findings on Helium-3.
Helium-3 is an isotope of the earthly Helium, the gas that is generally used to inflate balloons. But unlike its poor cousin, Helium-3 is quite precious, 100 times more valuable than gold. It is the gas that is touted as the future fuel of nuclear plants and automotives.
At present market prices of petroleum products, a tonne of Helium-3 costs not less than Rs 13,500 crore as against Rs 140 crore per tonne of gold. It is precious than enriched uranium, not only in terms of its value but also in terms of radioactive emission.
Helium-3 is clean and less radioactive than uranium and thorium. And the Moon is said to have one million tonnes of Helium-3. Chandrayaan-1 will explore whether the Moon has even larger stocks of this clean nuclear fuel. According to ISRO scientists, Helium-3 is present in the Moon's regolith (loose rocks or mantle) just below the surface of its false seas (maria).
Incidentally, Helium-3 is the only lunar resource worth extracting and bringing back to Earth. The human planet too has Helium-3 reserves, but they are less than 200 kgs. A tonne and a half of Helium-3 is sufficient to light up India for 365 days.
Senior astronomer Prof G Yellaih told this correspondent that the energy needs of the Earth would double in the next four decades and Helium-3 could be used to produce clean electricity. "Helium-3 can be used in fusion reactors to meet the energy needs of the world in future. India will definitely have a claim over Helium-3 by virtue of Chandrayaan-1 mission," he pointed out.
European Space Agency astrophysicists are of the view that the by-products of Helium-3 after its use for nuclear energy will be extremely helpful to support life in future lunar colonies. The by-products include hydrogen, water, nitrogen and methane.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA has estimated that a space shuttle load of Helium-3 would power the entire US for a year. For a developing country like India, a shuttle load of this celestial gas will work wonders as part of its energy requirements are concerned.
"There is more than 100 times more energy in the Helium-3 on the Moon than in all the economically recoverable coal, oil, and natural gas on earth. Helium-3 is highly safe and the fusion reactor using this fuel can be located amidst populated areas," he said.

Chandrayaan-1: The Course It Takes From Sriharikota To The Lunar World

October 21, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 20: India's first lunar orbitor, Chandrayaan-1, will travel about 4,00,000 kilometres outside the Earth's atmosphere to capture the "beautiful secrets" of the Moon. But astrophysicists at ISRO will have to wait for at least 18 days to get the first close-up pictures of the lunar terrain from Chandrayaan-1.
Not until November 8, Chandrayaan-1 will reach its designated orbit around the Earth's only natural satellite, at a safe but close distance of 100 km from the Moon. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C11 blasts off from Sriharikota island in Nellore district in the early morning of October 22 carrying Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. The PSLV-C11 will leave the spacecraft at a point in space, 250 km from the Earth at its closest (perigee) and 23,000 km at its farthest (apogee).
According to the celestial schedule drawn up by ISRO team, after circling the Earth in its initial orbit for a while, Chandrayaan-1 is taken into two more elliptical orbits whose apogees lie still higher at 37,000 km and 73,000 km respectively. "This is done at opportune moments by firing the spacecraft's Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) when the spacecraft is near perigee. Subsequently, LAM is fired again to take the spacecraft to an extremely high elliptical orbit whose apogee lies at about 3,87,000 km," says the ISRO's plan of action.
In this orbit, the spacecraft makes one complete revolution around the Earth in about 11 days. During its second revolution around the Earth in this orbit, the spacecraft will approach the Moon's north pole at a safe distance of about a few hundred kilometres since the Moon would have arrived there in its journey round the Earth.
"Once the Chandrayaan-1 reaches the vicinity of the Moon, the spacecraft is oriented in a particular way and its LAM is again fired. This slows down the spacecraft sufficiently to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit. Following this, the height of the spacecraft's orbit around the moon is reduced in steps. After a careful and detailed observation of perturbations in its intermediate orbits around the moon, the height of Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft's orbit
will be finally lowered to its intended 100 km height from the lunar surface," an ISRO release says.
Later, the Moon Impact Probe will be ejected from Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft at the earliest opportunity to hit the lunar surface in a chosen area. Following this, cameras and other scientific instruments are turned on and thoroughly tested. This leads to the operational phase of the mission. This phase lasts about two years during which Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft explores the lunar surface with its array of
instruments that includes cameras, spectrometers and its radar system.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Chandrayaan-1: "Safe" and "Terror" Spots On The Moon

October 20, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 19: As space faring nations plan to colonise the Moon with human beings in the near future, astrophysicists look towards Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 to spot out "safe" and "terror" landmarks on the Earth's only natural satellite.
The surface of the Moon is uneven and quite dangerous and there's little room for error or surprises. Any miscalculated landing will spell doom. Chandrayaan-1, India's first scientific mission outside the Earth's vicinity, is aided by the most advanced remote sensing technology to date. The Indian mission will help scientists identify places which are "safe" for human landing and habitation. It will also
give enough data on "terror" or dangerous spots, where landing means simply fixing an appointment with death.
Identifying safe and terror spots is of immense importance as the lunar terrain is believed to be marked by several dangerous areas which will "gulp away" anything that steps on them.
Imagine a spacecraft carrying a batch of aliens from another solar system,
planning to colonise the Earth, landing on the Mt Everest, deep in the Amazon jungles, amidst the sandy deserts of Sahara, on the volcanic Mt Etna, or in the Pacific Ocean. The invading ETs will end up in death. Human efforts to colonise the Moon is wrought with similar dangers.
The USA's Apollo-11 mission carrying Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin on July 20, 1969 had almost ended in a tragedy as they landed on a dangerous spot, but luckily manoeuvred to safety at the last minute with just 30 seconds of fuel remaining.
Chandrayaan-1 will address such problems in future manned missions by identifying safe and unsafe places on the Moon with the help of the scientific payload it is carrying aboard.
According to senior space scientist Max Meerman, "landing on the Moon is notoriously difficult. Much more so than on Mars". Astrophysicists, with the available data, are divided on the exact geological composition of the "waterless seas" or maria that dot the lunar surface. Some argue that they are hard with volcanic eruptions
including lava while others believe that the volcanic "dust" present there
is as fluffy as baby's powder, enough to "gulp" anything weighty.
If a spaceship lands on such a dangerous surface, it might get buried in the lunar soft soil. Good landing sites need to be even and free from large boulders that could damage spaceships as they attempt to land.
Moreover, scientists are not sure whether the polar regions on the Moon or its equatorial regions are the safe bet, both from the point of view of research and landing.
Moon models prepared by NASA and European Space Agency estimate that the temperature at the poles stay within about a 10 degree range of minus 50 degree Celsius while the
mercury at the equator fluctuates between minus 180 degree Celsius and 100 degree Celsius.
Chandrayaan-1 will also help scientists redesign and update their Moon maps with data on steep slopes, extreme temperatures and rocky terrain. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbitor scheduled for launch in March next year will also provide similar information.
"Once the maps have been created, mission planners will choose safe zones that are also scientifically interesting or are near possible resources," John Keller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre said in an email to this correspondent.

Chandrayaan-1 Is Precursor For Future Space Missions

October 20, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 19: Chandrayaan-1 is more than a simple spacecraft designed to study the surface of the Moon. It is the most advanced mission to date to the Earth's only natural satellite and a precursor for future space missions including those to Mercury.
The European Space Agency, which is coordinating with the Indian Space Research Organisation, describes Chandrayaan-1 as "a champion in high-quality remote sensing" that will study the Moon in "great detail".
Chandrayaan-1 uses a wide range of electromagnetic wavelengths to analyse the lunar surface including its crust in high resolution. The latest equipment provides a deeper understanding of the origin, evolution and composition of the Moon.
The Indian lunar mission will also drop a probe onto the surface, to test the
properties of the surface upon impact. According to ESA's update on the mission, Chandrayaan-1 will use several electromagnetic wavelengths - visible, near infrared, microwave, X-ray - to map the Moon’s minerals in "unprecedented", high resolution, and study lunar geology and geochemistry.
Chandrayaan-1 will analyse geological, mineralogical and topographical aspects of the lunar surface in unprecedented detail, study the vertical distribution of crustal material, investigate the processes that led to the formation of craters, maria (false seas) and basins on the Moon, explore space weathering processes, that result from the interaction of the solar wind and cosmic rays with the Moon’s surface.
For the first time the Indian lunar mission will produce three dimensional maps of regions of particular scientific interest at high spatial resolution (5 to 10 mts).
Describing Chandrayaan-1 as a "special mission", the European Space Agency said "although missions have collected lunar samples in the past to analyse later on ground, the role of remote sensing of the lunar surface is gradually increasing. Direct, in-situ exploration of the Moon, particularly by the Apollo, Luna, and Lunar Prospector missions have provided a considerable amount of data of the lunar surface which gave us an insight into the processes responsible for lunar origin and evolution. Nevertheless, there are many aspects, such as the global mineralogical composition, size and structure of the Moon, that require further study from orbit using remote-sensing techniques."
Accommodating 11 instruments on board, Chandrayaan-1 will help answer these questions from orbit, by collecting global surface composition data to
understand the formation and evolution of lunar crust and the processes that
have modified it during its history.
Describing Chandrayaan-1 as a precursor for future space missions, scientists at the ESA hope that Chandrayaan-1’s objectives will be of great value for future missions to the Moon, Mercury and other bodies in the solar system which do not have an atmosphere. It will open up ample possibilities for comparative planetology studies.

Chandrayaan-1 inspires Hyderabadi Youth to Float Moon Lovers' Club

October 20, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 19: A group of city enthusiasts has floated a Moon Lovers' Club and plans to open a lunar portal on the web, coinciding with the launch of India's maiden mission to the unknown realms of the Earth's only natural satellite.
As the Indian Space Research Organisation gets ready with its ambitious lunar venture to study the little known secrets of the brightly shining object in the sky, the group led by young management executive Rajzeev V Baagree has pooled its resources to bring together all those who love the Moon.
Incidentally, Rajzeev Baagree, who hails from Hyderabad, is the first Indian to "purchase" a plot on the Moon a couple of years ago for Rs 4,600. His lunar venture inspired three more Indians to buy an acre of land each on the Moon.
"India is embarking on the Moon Yatra. And as one who `owns’ a plot in the lunar world, I feel it’s my responsibility to mobilise support from all quarters for the success of the Moon Mission. India has always inspired the world and now it’s all set to present Moon in a new form.
Chandrayaan-1 will be able to reveal the facets of the Moon which we do not know at present,” Rajzeev told this correspondent.
Thousands of Indians have already registered their names with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA for its lunar mission scheduled some time later. NASA has plans to send the names, of all those who have enrolled with it, to the lunar terrain. Since there’s not much atmospheric activity up over there, the names will remain for posterity.
Rajzeev also plans to “construct” a house of his own on the Moon. But he knows he has to wait till the NASA, the ISRO or some other space agency starts sending people to the lunar world on a pleasure trip. “Human habitation on the Moon is going to become a possibility sooner or latter. As the owner of a plot there, I can welcome our people. They can be my guests,” he hopes.
The membership to the Moon Lovers’ Club is open to all. Any one who has some interest in astronomy or simply moon can enroll themselves as members. The idea, according to Rajzeev, is to bring people with same interests onto the common platform so that they can share their knowledge with one another. The proposed Lunar Portal will help reduce distance between two Moon lovers. They can simply log onto the portal and post their comments.
Thus far as much as 300 million acres of lunar land has been “sold” by lunarlandowner.com, one of the many agencies that “market” lands on the moon. And the Chandrayaan-1 mission has only renewed the interests on lunar real estate deals.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Chandrayaan-1 To Bring Down "Cost of Living" On The Moon

How Much Does A Bottle Of Water Cost On The Moon? A Cool $50,000, Says NASA

October 19, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 18: Journey to the Moon is indeed an exciting experience but he "cost of living" in the lunar world is simply prohibitive. A litre of bottled water, for instance, costs Rs 25,00,000 as per NASA estimates. Chandrayaan-1, India's maiden mission to the Earth's natural satellite, may bring down the cost of living on the Moon, as astrophysicists hope that the Indian spacecraft will provide vital clues on the presence of water in the lunar terrain.

A bottle of water on the Moon "costs" $50,000 or about Rs 25 lakh. If Chandrayaan-1 finds water, the cost will come down as scientists will be able to tap water on the lunar soil itself.

The presence or otherwise of water on the Moon will make or mar the future manned missions to the lunar world including formation of human colonies and launch of pleasure jaunts. With the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Indian Space Research Organisation planning manned missions to the Moon and some
space agencies thinking of organising pleasure trips in the next 15 years, the major task before astrophysicists is how to deflate the cost of living in the lunar world.
Chandrayaan-1 is the right and immediate opportunity to find the existence or absence of water, water molecules, or ice on the Moon, although the NASA is also sending its own Lunar Reconnaissance Orbitor some time later this year with the same objective.
According to Chandrayaan-1 mission project director M Annadurai, cometary debris and meteorites containing water-bearing minerals constantly hit the Moon and some of it is trapped in the cold lunar terrain. "Over geological time, significant quantities of water could accumulate on the Moon."
The Indian lunar spacecraft carries on board a 6.5-kg mini synthetic aperture radar, developed by the applied physics laboratory of Johns Hopkins University. The radar will enable scientists probe for water in the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon's poles. Besides, Chandrayaan-1 has an indigenously build high energy x-ray
spectrometer that will also explore the polar regions of the Moon. It is believed that these poles are covered by thick ice deposits.
The NASA, which is coordinating with the ISRO on the lunar mission along with the European Space Agency, estimates that a bottle of drinking water on the Moon costs $50,000 (or roughly Rs 25 lakh). "Discovering water on the moon would be like finding a gold mine. In fact, scientists have discovered evidence for water or hydrogen, a component of water, in special places on the Moon," said Dr Richard Vondrak of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, in an email to this correspondent.
Astrophysicists believe that most of the Moon is drier than the driest terrestrial desert, but they do not rule out the existence of water either in liquid or solid state.
NASA and ISRO teams hope that Chandrayaan-1 ill help them identify the most likely places to find hydrogen or ice deposits on the lunar terrain.
According to NASA, water on the Moon could be used for more than just drinking. It could be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket fuel and breathable air. Even sufficient concentrations of hydrogen by itself would be valuable because it could be used as fuel or combined with oxygen from the soil to make water.
Since transporting water to the Moon is simply prohibitive, tapping the water resources there could bring down the cost of living drastically. Moreover, people can cultivate vegetables and fruits on the Moon to further bring down the cost. To transport just a kilogram of material from the Earth to the Moon, it would just nothing less than $50,000, NASA scientists said.
But until the Chandrayaan-1 provides man on the Earth a clear picture of water on the Moon, the presence of precious liquid up there continues to be just a wishful thinking.

Friday, 17 October 2008

World Food Day: Millions of Indians slip back to poverty

October 17, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 16: As officials glossed over their "achievements" on the agricultural front on the World Food Day on Thursday, nearly one-tenth of the country's population slipped back into poverty under the impact of soaring prices of food items and unchecked inflation.
World Food Day is observed on October 16 more in a ritual manner than actually addressing the problem of hunger, malnutrition, food crisis and price rise. This year too it was just another World Food Day and the authorities concerned were simply content with rolling out alarming statistics on the food crisis in the country including in highly developed States like Punjab.
According to Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, more than 100 million people may have slipped back into poverty, and the Central government's efforts to eliminate poverty have suffered a setback by about seven years.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation has noted in its latest report that climate change will trigger hunger in India by affecting cereal production by as much as 18 per cent. "India could lose as much as 125 million tonnes of its rainfed cereal production," the FAO warned.
Unicef in its report has pointed out that about 60 per cent of children in India sleep empty stomach as they do not have access to food. Moreover, the population of malnourished and undernourished children is going up at an alarming rate, with complications of vitamin A deficiency.
However, the only silver lining is that the rate of chronic malnourishment has come down by 15 per cent in the last three decades.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Little known facts about Moon

1. The Moon was created when a rock the size of Mars slammed into Earth, shortly after the solar system began forming about 4.5 billion years ago.

2. More than 400 trees on Earth came from the Moon. Well, okay: They came from lunar orbit. Okay, the truth: In 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa took a bunch of seeds with him and, while Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell were busy sauntering around on the surface, Roosa guarded his seeds. Later, the seeds were germinated on Earth, planted at various sites around the country, and came to be called the Moon trees. Most of them are doing just fine.

3. The Moon's heavily cratered surface is the result of intense pummeling by space rocks between 4.1 billion and 3.8 billion years ago. The scars of this war, seen as
craters, have not eroded much for two main reasons: The Moon is not geologically very active, so earthquakes, volcanoes and mountain-building don't destroy the landscape as they do on Earth; and with virtually no atmosphere there is no wind or rain, so very little surface erosion occurs.

4. The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite. Right? Maybe not. In 1999, scientists found that a 3-mile- (5-kilometre-) wide asteroid may be caught in Earth's gravitational grip, thereby becoming a satellite of our planet. Cruithine, as it is called, takes 770 years to complete a horseshoe-shaped orbit around Earth, the scientists say, and it will remain in a suspended state around Earth for at least 5,000 years.

5. The Moon is not round (or spherical). Instead, it's shaped like an egg. If you go outside and look up, one of the small ends is pointing right at you. And the Moon's
centre of mass is not at the geometric centre of the satellite; it's about 1.2 miles (2 kilometres) off-centre.

6. Apollo astronauts used seismometers during their visits to the Moon and discovered that the gray orb isn't a totally dead place, geologically speaking. Small
moonquakes, originating several miles (kilometres) below the surface, are thought to be caused by the gravitational pull of Earth. Sometimes tiny fractures appear at the surface, and gas escapes. Scientists say they think the Moon probably has a core that is hot and perhaps partially molten, as is Earth's core. But data from NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft showed in 1999 that the Moon's core is small -- probably between 2 percent and 4 percent of its mass. This is tiny compared with Earth, in which the iron core makes up about 30 percent of the planet's mass.

7. Our Moon is bigger than Pluto. And at roughly one-fourth the diameter of Earth, some scientists think the Moon is more like a planet. They refer to the Earth-Moon system as a "double planet." Pluto and its moon Charon are also called a double-planet system by some.

8. As you read this, the Moon is moving away from us. Each year, the Moon steals some of Earth's rotational energy, and uses it to propel itself about 3.8
centimetres higher in its orbit. Researchers say that when it formed, the Moon was about 14,000 miles (22,530 kilometres) from Earth. It's now more than 280,000 miles, or 450,000 kilometres away.

(Courtesy: Space.com)

Chandrayaan-1: India's Mission To The Moon - What's The Next Step?

October 12, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: After the no manned missions, Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2, ISRO plans
to send a manned mission to the Earth's only natural satellite. The dream year is 2014. The manned mission in 2014 will be followed by the actual landing of an Indian national on the lunar surface by 2020. India plans to achieve this rare feat much before China realises its manned mission to the Moon.
So far only the USA and the erstwhile USSR had sent manned missions to the moon. But only the USA had achieved the feat of actually landing man onto the lunar surface. India will be second nation if it succeeds sending man onto the moon's terrain as
scheduled in 2020.
"We believe that pushing forward human presence in space may become essential for planetary exploration, a goal we have set for ISRO," said ISRO chairman G Madhavan
According to ISRO, the cost of manned flight to the moon will be around Rs 1500 crore.

Chandrayaan-1: Objectives of India's Moon Mission

October 12, 2008
By Syed Akbar

Objectives of the Moon Mission

The Indian Space Research Organisation, which has programmed Chandrayaan-1, has manifold ideas behind the mission. The main mission objectives are:

1. to realise the goal of harnessing the science payloads, lunar craft and
the launch vehicle with suitable ground support systems including deep space network station.

2. to realise the integration and testing, launching and achieving lunar
polar orbit of about 100 km, in-orbit operation of experiments, communication/ telecommand, telemetry data reception, quick look data and archival for scientific utilisation by identified group of scientists.

The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft

The Mission Chandrayaan-1 uses a 3-axis stabilised spacecraft with two star sensors, gyros and four reaction wheels.
The power generation is through a canted single-sided solar array that gives the required power during all phases of the mission. This deployable solar array consisting of a single panel generates 700 watts of peak power. During eclipse spacecraft will be powered by Lithium ion batteries.

The spacecraft employs a X-band, 0.7m diameter parabolic antenna for payload data
transmission. The antenna employs a dual gimbal mechanism to track the earth station when the spacecraft is in lunar orbit. The spacecraft uses a bipropellant integrated propulsion system to reach lunar orbit as well as orbit and attitude maintenance while orbiting the moon.

The propulsion system carries required propellant for a mission life of two years, with adequate margin.

Chandrayaan-1: SHAR All Set To Make History

October 12, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Satish Dhawan Space Centre, popularly known as SHAR, located at Sriharikota in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, is all set to register another record with the
launch of Chandrayaan-1 mission on October 22.
With 28 successful launchings, including some international satellites, to its credit of the 33 odysseys into space, Shar is gearing up for yet another milestone. A jewel in the ISRO’s crown, Shar is a spindle shaped island in the Bay of Bengal.
In just three decades the island has transformed from a habitation of
tribals to an ultra-high-security zone, where the best minds of India work - minds that have catapulted India to its fame of being one of the select group of nations with space age technology. The island was selected in 1969 for setting up of a satellite launch station because of the advantages of its location. Characteristics such as good launch azimuth corridor for various missions, advantage of earth's rotation for eastward launchings, proximity to the equator, and large uninhabited area as safety zone all make Sriharikota Range a perfect spaceport.
The space centre was renamed as 'Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR' on September 5, 2002, in memory of Prof. Satish Dhawan, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Signs of cultural past can be seen all over the island, left behind by the people who lived here long before the spaceport was born. The native Yanadi tribe has been rehabilitated. SHAR has a unique combination of facilities, such as a solid propellant production plant, a rocket motor static test facility, launch complexes for a variety of rockets, telemetry, telecommand, tracking, data acquisition and processing facilities, and other support services. The first flight-test of 'Rohini-125', a small sounding rocket, took place from here on October 9, 1971.
Since then the facilities here were expanded to meet the growing needs of ISRO.

Chandrayaan-1: India's First-Ever Moon Mission To Unravel Lunar Secrets

October 12
By Syed Akbar

"O Moon! We should be able to know you through our intellect. You
enlighten us through the right path." - Rig Veda

Inspired by this ancient sloka of the Rig Veda, the oldest Scripture on
the Earth, the Indian Space Research Organisation embarked upon the Mission Moon in 2003. Five years later, India's dream of sending its own indigenous mission to the Earth's natural satellite is all set to be realised. Chandrayaan-1, the first-ever
Moon mission by Indian scientists, is scheduled to take off from the historic rocket launch pad in Sriharikota, abutting the azure Bay of Bengal, on October 22.
"Understanding the Moon provides a pathway to unravel the early evolution of the solar system and that of the planet Earth," said a delighted ISRO chief G Madhavan Nair, while announcing the new schedule of the Chandrayaan-1 mission. Once Chandrayaan-1 enters the lunar orbit and starts beaming the lunar data back
to the Earth, India joins the elite club of Space nations.
And this distinction has not come in a day. Indian scientists, long before
the Mission Moon was conceived and set into motion officially in November 2003, had done enough homework on the natural satellite. They had gathered enough data on the Moon and developed the appropriate technology by then. but what they needed was fixing up the loose ends to put the Mission Moon through. Chandrayaan-1 is the first in the series of India's mission to moon. ISRO proposes to send as many as missions as possible to the lunar world. But at presently, one two phases of Chandrayaan are planned, Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2.

In Chandrayaan-1, the lunar craft will be launched using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The lunar craft or Chandrayaan (Chandra means Moon in Sanskrit and Yaan
means craft) will orbit around the Moon 100 km from the lunar surface, taking pictures with a resolution as high as 20 km.
Several hurdles, bureaucratic and international, notwithstanding, Team ISRO has now proved before the developed nations that given a right opportunity Indian space scientists are second to none when it comes to doing things which many believe are impossible. Chandrayaan-1 will gradually pave the way for the manned mission to the lunar world. Madhavan Nair and Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal have already declared India's intention to send a manned mission to the Moon.
The data the Chandrayaan-1 mission will bring back to ISRO's laboratory in
Bengaluru and associated centres all over including NRSA in Hyderabad, will not only help us to understand the Moon better, but also take India a step closer to launching man to the lunar terrain. Chandrayaan-1 will take India, space scientists believe, to the threshold of completing the unfinished task of the Americans and the Russians. The USA and the erstwhile USSR had gathered information about the
moon through their missions, both manned and unmanned, in the 1960s and 1970s.
The last 25 years had not witnessed much activity as far as the Moon is concerned. India will take on from where the Americans and the Russians had left to introduce human beings to the "friendly" terrain of the moon.
The last 50 years had yielded quite a lot of data on the moon. And yet it continues to be as enigmatic as before. As new questions about lunar evolution have emerged, space faring nations continued with their mission to find new possibilities of using the moon as a platform for further exploration of the solar system and beyond. Moon has once again become the prime target for exploration and the USA had already
described it as the future tourist destination.
"The idea of undertaking an Indian scientific mission to Moon was initially mooted in a meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1999. It was followed up by discussions in the Astronautical Society of India in 2000. Based on the recommendations that emerged out of these meetings, a National Lunar Mission
Task Force was constituted by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
Leading Indian scientists and technologists participated in the deliberations of the Task Force that provided an assessment on the feasibility of an Indian Mission to the Moon as well as dwelt on the focus of such a mission and its possible
configuration," said Dr Nair.
India's current Moon Mission is aimed at high-resolution remote sensing of the moon in visible, near infrared, low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions. Specifically, the objectives will be to prepare a three-dimensional atlas (with a high spatial and altitude resolution of 5-10 m) of both near and far side of
the moon, besides conducting chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface for distribution of elements such as magnesium, aluminium, silicon, calcium,
iron and titanium. Chandrayaan-1 will also study high atomic number elements including radon, uranium and thorium.
The other objectives of the mission are to take photo geological and chemical mapping of the moon to identify different geological units on the lunar surface. This will test the early evolutionary history of the moon and help in determining the nature and stratigraphy of the lunar crust.
The Rs 386-crore India's Chandrayaan-1 mission include the cuboid shaped spacecraft that weighs 1,304 kgs at launch and 590 kg at lunar orbit. It ccommodates as many as 11 scientific payloads. Since Chandrayaan-1 will have a low orbit, it is expected to bring it very close to the Moon, returning high quality data.
The Chandrayaan-1 will catapult ISRO to its next moon mission, Chandrayaan-1 scheduled for 2011. While Chandrayaan-1 does not involve the actual touching of the lunar soil, the second phase of the mission involves sending a rover right onto the moon. Chandrayaan-2 will consist of the spacecraft and a landing platform with the moon rover, which will move on wheels on the lunar surface.
The rover will pick up samples of soil or rocks, do a chemical analysis and send the data to the spacecraft orbiting above the moon's territory. The rover will weigh up to 100 kg and will complete its mission in a month's time, before laying dead virtually.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Ban On Smoking In Public Places: People To Save Rs 10,000 Crore On Health Bills A Year

October 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 10: It's going to be a windfall for the Union government with health planners expecting about Rs 10,000 crore a year even if one per cent of India's estimated 120 million smokers are fined under the new Act banning smoking in public places. This is 60 per cent of India's total annual health budget of Rs
16,534 crore.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organisation, the total turnover of the tobacco industry in India is Rs 35,000 crore and Indians spend at least Rs 36,000 crore on medicare to fight diseases directly connected to tobacco, particularly cigarette smoking.
"The economics of ban of public smoking is quite high. In the USA and European countries where public smoking is banned, the incidence of diseases like cancer linked to tobacco has come down by 30 per cent. If the ban is implemented effectively in India, the economic burden on people due to tobacco-related ailments
will come down by at least Rs 10,000 crore a year, given the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and WHO statistics," said Dr P Vijay Anand Reddy, chief of cancer wing of Apollo Hospitals.
The total revenue generation to the national exchequer and the savings on medical bills of Indians could well be over Rs 20,000 crore since Union Minister of Health Anbumani Ramadoss went on record saying that 40 per cent of the country's health problems are linked to smoking. One in five people the world over who have health problems because of tobacco use is an Indian.
Since the revenue generated from the ban is unexpectedly high, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has laid out "step by step" guidelines to all the State governments to ensure that the Act is implemented in toto. Individuals violating the Act will be penalised Rs 200 and the fine thus collected will be deposited in a special fund to be created by individual State governments.
"The money thus generated will be utilised solely for creating awareness on tobacco-related diseases and other health activities. We are also taking enough steps to ensure that the money collected as fine is deposited with the government. To prevent misuse of the money, the district medical and health office has taken the responsibility to publish the challan books with serial numbers. We are distributing them to all departments and establishments for accountability. Moreover, monthly reports have to be sent to DHMO and district collectors concerned for transparency of accounts," Hyderabad DHMO Dr Ch Jayakumari told this correspondent.
The MoHFW has come out with different models of channelising the funds collected through fine. The State governments will have to create a separate head of account one the lines of the one already in existence in Gujarat. This will enable Department of Health to use the fund for tobacco control activities. In
case the States have a separate account for National Tobacco Control Programme in the Health Society, the funds may be deposited in this account.
"It is necessary for the State government to lay down detailed guidelines for ensuring accountability for the amount collected as fine," the MoHFW said in its circular to States.

Vaccine for Human Papilloma Virus: India Enters Demonstration Phase

October 8, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 7: Young women in India can now live without the fear of the cancer of cervix.
The stage is now set for the "demonstration phase" of the vaccine against the killer human papilloma virus in the country with the Indian Council of Medical Research inviting institutes and candidates for operations research services, which will finally pave the way for the introduction of HPV vaccine against cancer of cervix.
Following encouraging results from pilot studies carried out in different parts of the country including Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh, the ICMR has taken the process of introduction of HPV vaccine to the next stage by seeking volunteers to participate in the project. Vaccine demonstration project is an important phase before a vaccine is officially introduced for mass inoculation.
Volunteers and research institutes may enrol themselves for the demonstration project before October 17. The Central government will finalise the list next month.
Introduction of HPV vaccine will bring down the rate of cancer of cervix in women in the country. India contributes one-fifth of the global burden of cervical cancer cases and those at high risk are married women, above 35 years old.
The ICMR has already roped in PATH, an international voluntary organisation, for the vaccine demonstration project in the country. "The overall goal of the HPV vaccine project is to maximise country readiness and strengthen the policy environment by generating critical data and experience for evidence-based decision-making on HPV vaccine introduction in the public sector. The HPV vaccine demonstration projects will be reviewed by relevant government and institutional review board authorities to obtain necessary approvals prior to implementation," according to ICMR officials.
According to PATH statistics, nearly 500,000 women each year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 250,000 die from it. A disproportionate number of those deaths occur in developing countries, particularly India. The new vaccines will make it possible to protect women before they become infected. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. There are more than 100 strains of the virus, but only a handful cause cancer. Women are usually infected in their teens, 20s, or early 30s, but they don’t show symptoms until much later, so they are not aware.
"Pilot studies in India and other developing countries indicated that the new vaccines against HPV are safe and 100 per cent effective. Widespread vaccination, it is expected, could reduce the number of cases of cervical cancer by at least half over the next five decades. The vaccine is most effective if given to girls before they have been exposed to the virus during sex," says a PATH report.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Zakat: The Economics of Ramadhan

By Syed Akbar
October 1, 2008
Ramazan is not just an occasion of fasting, vermicelli and haleem. There’s more to this Islamic holy month than personal devotion and mouth-watering dishes. The compulsory charity collected during this month either in the form of Zakat or Fitra builds the lives of innumerable people.
According to an estimate, Hyderabadis including those living abroad contribute as much as Rs 1000 crore towards compulsory charity during Ramazan. There has always been an increase of eight to 10 per cent in the Zakat collection. But since there’s no umbrella body that oversees the Zakat funds, the money thus collected goes into small charities rather than a major perceptible cause. There are several individuals who donate more than Rs 1 crore towards Zakat every Ramazan while certain Hyderabadi families are known to disburse Zakat anything upward of Rs 5 crore.
Hyderabad stands second in India after Mumbai in Zakat collection. A notable feature this year is that most of the money from Zakat will go towards welfare activities like housing, sanitation, pensions to widows and old people, unlike earlier years when the funds were primarily utilized for educational scholarships.
Thanks to the YS Rajasekhar Reddy government offering free education including professional courses for all Muslim students whose parental income is less than Rs 1 lakh a year, the organizations involved in Zakat collection and distribution have decided to concentrate more on non-educational activities. The government’s scheme has benefited the community to the extent of about Rs 200 crore. This in other words means Zakat money to this extent will go to welfare activities other than educational scholarships.
“Ramazan is in fact the month of human economics, for its benefits the have-nots. But unfortunately in India we do not have a centralized Zakat collection and distribution organization to oversee the flow of Zakat funds. There are thousands of small Zakat bodies all over the country. In Hyderabad itself there are more than 2000 such organizations. As the money is not channelised through a single source, Zakat funds are not able to provide concrete results,” said senior Islamic scholar Moulana Abdul Kareem.
Only a handful of large Zakat bodies like Hyderabad Zakat and Charitable Trust could make an impact on the poor. The Hyderabad Zakat and Charitable Trust alone disbursed about Rs 10 crore in the form of scholarship benefiting 17,000 students, including 2,300 orphans. They take up housing projects for the poor, build schools in remote areas, open hospitals and run specialized training centres for destitute and poor women.
“The concept behind Zakat and Fitra is quite simple. If fasting is made compulsory during Ramazan it is to let the person on fast know what hunger and thirst is. This brings him closer to the poor. Zakat is compulsory on the rich so that they donate a part of their income to the poor. Every Muslim must donate Zakat calculated at 2.5 per cent of his annual savings. Fitra is another form of charity. It should be paid to the poor before the Id prayers so that the have-nots too join the celebrations,” said Moulana Anwar Ahmad.

Word Of The Day - Improve Your Knowledge

Word of the Day

Article of the Day

This Day in History

Today's Birthday

In the News

Quote of the Day

Spelling Bee
difficulty level:
score: -
please wait...
spell the word:

Match Up
Match each word in the left column with its synonym on the right. When finished, click Answer to see the results. Good luck!



This Day In History

Mother's Care

Mother's Care
Minnu The Cat & Her Kittens Brownie, Goldie & Blackie

Someone with Nature

Someone with Nature
Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

Under the shade of Baobab tree
At Agha Khan Akademi in Kenya

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

Convention on Biodiversity
Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity