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July 12, 2021
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July 14, 2021
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13 July Current Affairs

NASA’s VIPER Mission

In News:

NASA has announced that it will launch its Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, in 2023.


NASA is undertaking the mission to understand if it is possible for human life to sustain there, by using locally available resources.

About the mission:

VIPER is a mobile robot.

It is the first resource mapping mission on any other celestial body.

NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) will be providing the launch vehicle and lander for what’s going to be a 100-day mission.

Objectives of the mission:

To explore the Moon’s South Pole region.

Help create lunar resource maps.

Evaluate the concentration of water as well as other potential resources on its surface.

Significance of the mission:

VIPER’s findings will inform “future landing sites under the Artemis program by helping to determine locations where water and other resources can be harvested” to sustain humans over extended stays.

Electing a Speaker, Deputy Speaker

In News:

Maharashtra has been without a Speaker since February. The sessions are now presided by Deputy Speaker.


Even Lok Sabha and several state Assemblies are without a Deputy Speaker.

How they are elected?

Article 93 for Lok Sabha and Article 178 for state Assemblies state that these Houses “shall, as soon as may be”, choose two of its members to be Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

In Lok Sabha and state legislatures, the President/Governor sets a date for the election of the Speaker, and it is the Speaker who decides the date for the election of the Deputy Speaker.

The legislators of the respective Houses vote to elect one among themselves to these offices.

Their roles and functions:

The Speaker is “the principal spokesman of the House, he represents its collective voice and is its sole representative to the outside world”.

The Speaker presides over the House proceedings and joint sittings of the two Houses of Parliament.

It is the Speaker’s decision that determines whether a Bill is a Money Bill and therefore outside of the purview of the other House.

Usually, the Speaker comes from the ruling party. In the case of the Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, the position has varied over the years.

The constitution has tried to ensure the independence of Speaker by charging his salary on the consolidated Fund of India and the same is not subject to vote of Parliament.

While debating or during general discussion on a bill, the members of the parliament have to address only to the Speaker.

States which have specified time-frame for holding the election:

The Constitution neither sets a time limit nor specifies the process for these elections. It leaves it to the legislatures to decide how to hold these elections.

For example, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh specify a time-frame.

In Haryana:

The election of the Speaker has to take place as soon as possible after the election. And then the Deputy Speaker is to be elected within seven more days.

The rules also specify that if a vacancy in these offices happens subsequently, then the election for these should occur within seven days of the legislature’s next session.

In Uttar Pradesh:

There is a 15-day limit for an election to the Speaker’s post if it falls vacant during the term of the Assembly.

In the case of the Deputy Speaker, the date for the first election is to be decided by the Speaker, and 30 days is given for filling subsequent vacancies.

VSS Unity spaceship’s suborbital flight

In News:

VSS Unity spaceship, with six people onboard, recently took off from New Mexico and reached an altitude of 85 km from Earth before returning. Such a trip is called a “suborbital flight”.

What’s suborbital?

Satellites need to reach a threshold speed in order to orbit Earth. If an object travels at a horizontal speed of about 28,000 km/hr or more, it goes into orbit once it is above the atmosphere.

At such speed, a satellite prevents itself from accelerating toward the Earth due to gravity.

Such a trip allows space travellers to experience a few minutes of “weightlessness”.

Significance of such experiments:

Suborbital flights are helpful for microgravity research.

They would be far less expensive than carrying experiments and people to the International Space Station.

Suborbital flights could also be an alternative to parabolic flights in aeroplanes that space agencies currently use to simulate zero gravity.

About the Unity 22 mission:

As part of the mission, the crew flew to the edge of space on July 11 on board the ‘Unity’ rocket ship developed by Virgin Galactic.

This was the 22nd mission for VSS Unity.

This was Virgin Galactic’s fourth crewed spaceflight.

It was also the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson, who will be testing out the private astronaut experience.

Objectives of the mission:

Unity 22 will focus on testing the cabin and customer experience.

Currently, two additional test flights remain before the Virgin Galactic plans to commence commercial service in 2022.

Significance for India:

Sirisha Bandla, an astronaut born in India, was a part of the crew.

This is significant as she was the third woman of Indian origin to go to space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.

Rakesh Sharma is another Indian who went into space prior to Bandla.

Uniqueness of VSS Unity Spaceship:

Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spacecraft are air-launched from beneath a carrier aircraft ‘White Knight Two’. The space vehicle can climb to an altitude of around 90 kilometres, enough to give passengers a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of Earth’s curvature from the edge of space.