09, September 2016

NASA launches OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to collect samples from Bennu asteroid

Source: NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US space agency has launched OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to collect samples from an asteroid 101955 Bennu and return to Earth.

The spacecraft was launched onboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

About OSIRIS-Rex:

OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.

It is an unmanned spacecraft and NASA’s first mission to collect samples from an asteroid and return to Earth.

Primary aim of the mission:

To study asteroid 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid.

Also to return a sample at least 60 grams dirt and debris from its surface and return to Earth in 2023 for detailed analysis.

NASA scientists feel that the Bennu asteroid hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules found on Earth.

Significance of the mission:

Material returned from asteroid 101955 Bennu is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System. Besides it will give insights of initial stages of planet formation and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life on Earth.

South-East Asian nations to set up fund to prepare for health

Source: Business Standard

India along with 10 other member countries of WHO’s South-East Asian Regional Committee has decided to set up a dedicated fund aimed at building preparedness for health emergencies in the region.

Taking part in the 69th session of WHO Regional Committee Meeting at Colombo, they also passed a resolution for promoting physical activity and expanding health workforces across the region.

The new funding stream will allow countries to invest in infrastructure and human resources that will enhance preparedness.

In the recent years, earthquakes, cyclones and floods have caused health emergencies in south-east Asian region and it has also been threatened by a range of emerging diseases, including SARS, MERS CoV, pandemic influenza and Zika virus.

Establishing a joint funding stream under the South-East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund (SEARHEF) to help countries better prepare for such events was seen by the countries as a key priority for the regional health agenda.

Another resolution passed by the session was promoting physical activity. Insufficient physical activity is a major contributor to rising rates of non-communicable diseases in the region, with four-fifth of adolescents not getting enough of it.

The session also passed a resolution on strengthening health workforce which is vital for achieving universal health coverage – a key part of the Sustainable Development Goal of “leaving no one behind”.

The Regional Committee is WHO South-East Asia Region’s highest decision-making body.

The region comprises 11 countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

ASEAN Summit 2016 concludes in Vientiane, Laos

Source: PIB, Indian Express

The ASEAN Summit concluded on 8 September 2016 at Vientiane, Laos. The theme for the 2016 summit was Turning Vision into Reality for a Dynamic ASEAN Community.

The summit was attended by the leaders of all 10-member nations of ASEAN viz. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR (host), , Vietnam,  Myanmar and Cambodia.

India and ASEAN:

India’s focus on a strengthened and multi-faceted relationship with ASEAN is an outcome of the significant changes in the world’s political and economic scenario since the early 1990s and India’s own march towards economic liberalization. India’s search for economic space resulted in the ‘Look East Policy’. The Look East Policy has today matured into a dynamic and action oriented ‘Act East Policy.

There has been steady progress in the ASEAN-India partnership since the Look East Policy was launched in 1991. India became sectoral dialogue partners in 1992 and full dialogue partners in 1996. Since 2002, India has annual Summits with ASEAN along with China, Japan and Republic of Korea.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had represented India at the ASEAN summit at the 14th ASEAN-India summit.

ASEAN-India adopted a document aiming at politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible and people oriented people centered ASEAN-India Community.

The document recognizes the vital importance of the planned review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods (AITIG) Agreement.

It seeks to ensure that the agreement is trade-facilitative and remains relevant to the current global trading practices.

The document also emphasizes the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability, unimpeded commerce, freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed deep concern over the rising export of terror in an apparent reference to Pakistan.

He also mentioned that export of terror is common security threat to the region and there was need for a coordinated response from the ASEAN member nations to combat it.

About ASEAN Summits and Themes

ASEAN was established in 1967 by the five founding members namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam, Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia joined later.

The Summit is ASEAN’s highest policy-making body.

The chair of the ASEAN Summit rotates annually in alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.

By virtue of holding the chair of the ASEAN for a particular year, the concerned member state also chairs the ASEAN Summit and related summits. Further, ASEAN Summits are held bi-annually but with a common theme.

The 26th ASEAN Summit was held at Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi, Malaysia between 26 and 28 April 2015 with the theme Our People, Our Community, Our Vision. The 27th ASEAN Summit was held in Kuala Lumpur between 18 and 22 November 2015 with the same theme.

Book based on Arunachal wins UK award for historical fiction

Novel based on Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh titled Into the Hidden Valley has won 2016 MM Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction in the United Kingdom.

The novel is authored by Stuart Blackburn. He was presented with this award at the HNS Conference in Oxford.

Novel: Into the Hidden Valley The novel looks into a little-known episode in the colonial history of British India. It brings alive the world of the Apatanis and portrays the impact of British colonialism. It dramatises the encounter by telling two stories, one of a British official and the other of a tribesman.

About Stuart Blackburn

He is the author. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island.

He has authored or edited 16 books on Indian culture and folklore, mainly in south India and northeast India.

His first novel Murder in Melur was set in south India. One of his book based on study of shadow puppet theatre in Kerala had won the runner-up prize for the UK Folklore Book of the Year.

He had completed his doctorate (PhD) in Tamil language and international folklore from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980.

About MM Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction

The prestigious literary award has been named in memory of writer-historian MM Bennetts. MM Bennetts was a specialist in early 19th century British history and Napoleonic wars.

Prior to writing novels Bennetts was a French translator. He was also longstanding book critic for the Pulitzer-prize winning newspaper, ‘The Christian Science Monitor’.

First LIGO lab outside U.S. may come up in Maharashtra’s Hingoli

Source: The Hindu

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) project that was given the in-principle approval by the Union Cabinet may come up in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district.

LIGO-India will bring considerable opportunities for Indian scientists in instrumentation and development also, as they along with industry members will be engaged in the construction of the eight km-long beam tube at ultra-high vacuum on a levelled terrain.


A MoU to set up the LIGO-India project was signed between the scientists from the US’ National Science Foundation (NSF) and India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the DST in April 2016. Earlier in February 2016, the Union Cabinet had given its in-principle approval to the LIGO-India mega science proposal for research on gravitational waves.

Sikkim sparkles in NSSO sanitation survey

Source: The Hindu, Economic Times

Sikkim has been declared the cleanest state while Jharkhand comes last in the list on the condition of sanitation in rural areas of 26 states in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat is ranked 14th.

The results of survey carried out last year by National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) was released today by Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

Following Sikkim come Kerala, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Haryana, Punjab, Uttrakhand, Manipur and Meghalaya among the top 10 States.

T.N. among bottom

The States which fared poorly in the study include Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir.

The NSSO conducted the survey in May-June 2015 covering 73,176 households in 3,788 villages across the country. The ranking given on the basis of percentage of households having access to sanitary toilets and using them (either household or community toilets).

Sikkim scored 98.2 per cent on a scale of 100. Kerala scored 96.4 while neighboring Tamil Nadu notched up just 39.2.

Road clear for Chandrayaan-2

Source: The Hindu

GSLV-Mk II vehicle will launch the moon mission in 2018

The space road to Chandrayaan-2 is now clear. The significance of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F05) mission’s success on Thursday is that the rocket is now more than qualified to put Chandrayaan-2 into orbit.  

A GSLV-Mk II vehicle will put Chandrayaan-2 with a lander and a rover into orbit in the first quarter of 2018. It will be a totally indigenous mission — the vehicle, the spacecraft, the lander and the rover are all made in India. The orbiter (that is, the spacecraft), the lander and rover together will weigh 3,280 kg. After the spacecraft is inserted into the lunar orbit, the lander with the rover inside it will separate and land softly on the moon’s surface.

About Chandrayaan – 2

Chandrayaan 2, India’s second mission to the Moon, is an advanced version of the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission. It consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover configuration.

It is planned to be launched as a composite stack into the Earth Parking Orbit (EPO) of 170 X 18,500 km by GSLV-Mk II.

During 2010, it was agreed that Russian Space Agency ROSCOSMOS would be responsible for lunar Lander and ISRO will be responsible for Orbiter and Rover as well as Launch by GSLV. Later, due to a shift in the programmatic alignment of this mission, it was decided that the Lunar Lander development would be done by ISRO and Chandrayaan-2 will be totally an Indian mission.

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