Antares rocket built by Northrop Grumman recently lifted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore carrying the Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft to the International Space Station.
The mission is called NG-11. It is the eleventh cargo flight for NASA by Northrop Grummanand will be the company’s longest one to date.
The NG-11 mission is also the final cargo mission for NASA by Northrop Grumman under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services 1 program. To mark the occasion, Northrop Grummannamed the NG-11 Cygnus the S.S. Roger Chaffee in honor of NASA astronaut Roger Chaffee, who was killed in the Apollo 1 fire alongside crewmates Gus Grissom and Ed White, Jr.
The mice aboard Cygnus are at the core of one such study, which aims to test the effectiveness of an anti-tetanus vaccine. The rodents are split into two groups of 20; half will receive the vaccine in space and the other 20 will not receive the vaccine. Scientists will study the mice to see how the animals responded to the vaccine once they are back on Earth.
Other wild science experiments on Cygnusinclude testing out two robotic systems; Seeker, which is designed to hunt for air leaks on the Space Station, and Astrobee, which aims to help the station’s staff with tasks such as inventory and maintenance.
There’s gear to build pristine ZBLANfiber-optic cables in space, and a prototype for a novel air scrubber that removes carbon dioxide from the station’s atmosphere.
On the exterior of the Cygnus are small CubeSats that will be deployed after the spacecraft leaves the space station this summer.
The Antares rocket’s upper stage also carried 60 so-called ThinSats (tiny satellites) were built by elementary and high school students; one NASA CubeSat (called SASSI2) was built by students at both universities in Indiana and Illinois.
Most ancient type of molecule in our universe
Scientists have detected the most ancient type of molecule in our universe- Helium hydride ion– in space for the first time ever.
It was discovered with the help of the GREAT spectrometer aboard SOFIA in the envelope of the planetary nebula NGC 7027.
Despite its importance in the history of the early Universe, HeH+ has so far escaped detection in astrophysical nebulae — cloud of gas and dust in outer space.
Helium hydride ion (HeH+) was the first molecule that formed when, almost 14 billion years ago, falling temperatures in the young universe allowed recombination of the light elements produced in the Big Bang. At that time, ionized hydrogen and neutral helium atoms reacted to form HeH+.
How and when was it formed?
During the dawn of chemistry when the temperature in the young universe had fallen below 4000 Kelvin, the ions of the light elements (hydrogen, helium, deuterium and traces of lithium) produced in Big Bang nucleosynthesis recombined in reverse order of their ionization potential.
Helium combined first with free electrons to form the first ever neutral atom. At that time hydrogen was still ionized or present in form of bare protons. Helium atoms combined with these protons into the helium hydride ion HeH+, the universe’s first molecular bond.
As recombination progressed, HeH+ reacted with then neutral hydrogen and created a first path to the formation of molecular hydrogen — marking the beginning of the modern universe.
The lack of definitive evidence of its very existence in interstellar space has been a dilemma for astronomy for a long time. The discovery of HeH+ is a dramatic and beautiful demonstration of nature’s tendency to form molecules.
Source: The Hindu
Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)
Renewable Energy (RE) companies have moved the Delhi High Court, seeking an exemption for Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) under the GST.
Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), also known as green energy certificates or tradable renewable certificates are proof that energy has been generated from renewable sources such as solar or wind power. Each REC represents the environmental benefits of 1MWh of renewable energy generation. When you purchase RECs, renewable energy is generated on your behalf.
It is a market based mechanism which will help the states meet their regulatory requirements (such as Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPOs)) by overcoming the geographical constraints on existing renewable potential in different states.
RECs unbundle the electricity component (commodity) from the green/environmental attributes of the power generated from renewable sources. Both the components can then be traded separately.
Thus, RECs help in incentivizing the production of renewable energy over and above the RPO state limit as tradable certificates are not constrained by the geographical limitations of commodity electricity.
Need for removal of GST:
RECs are being charged GST, while bundled power (RECs plus electricity, irrespective of source) or even just electricity are devoid of the same.
Cost of electricity generation from renewable energy sources is classified as cost of electricity generation (equivalent to conventional energy sources) and the cost of environmental attributes. REC is the environmental attribute of the electricity derived from RE.
As per regulations, RPO compliance through REC is at par with sourcing electricity directly from RE. Therefore, GST applicable on the sale of RECs negatively affects its parity with similar electricity sale alternatives, be it conventional or renewable.
Moreover discoms, the major buyer of RECs (around 50-60 per cent), do not get GST credit; and the increase in their cost of RPO compliance will translate to increased tariff for the end consumer.
Source: Down to Earth
World Press Freedom Index 2019
The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released the World Press Freedom Index 2019, reflecting growing animosity towards journalists.
Performance of various countries:
The index has been topped by Norway again for the third year, followed by Finland and Sweden at second and third positions, respectively.
Only 24 percent of the 180 countries and territories were classified as “good” or “fairly good”, as opposed to 26 percent last year.
Of all the world’s regions, Americas (North and South) suffered the greatest deterioration, falling by 3.6 percent, in its regional score.
The Middle East and North Africa region continues to be the most difficult and dangerous for journalists.
Syria (174th) continues to be extremely dangerous for media personnel and as does Yemen (168th).
The Asia-Pacific region continues to rank third last. The number of murdered journalists was extremely high in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Disinformation is becoming a big problem in the region.
Observations on India:
India’s rank dropped down to 140th from 138th in 2018, two points below the previous year.
As per the Index, one of the most striking features of the current state of press freedom in India is violence against journalists including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters, criminal groups and corrupt politicians.
The media coverage in the sensitive regions like Kashmir continues to be very difficult. Even the entry of foreign reporters is prohibited in Kashmir and the Internet is often disconnected there.
About World Press Freedom Index:
Published annually by Reporters Without Borders since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom in 180 countries.
It is based on an evaluation of media freedom that measures pluralism, media independence, the quality of the legal framework and the safety of journalists.
It also includes indicators of the level of media freedom violations in each region.
It is compiled by means of a questionnaire in 20 languages that is completed by experts all over the world. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated.
Source: The Hindu
Key changes to Egypt’s constitution
Egypt is holding a three-day referendum on constitutional amendments that could allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in office until 2030. Parliament this week overwhelmingly approved the proposals, which would also bolster the role of the military and expand the president’s power over judicial appointments.
Critics say they fear that the changes will further limit the space for dissent after a wide-ranging security crackdown.
What are the key changes?
An amendment to Article 140 of the constitution extends the presidential term to six years from four. An outright bar on any president serving more than two terms will change to a bar on serving more than two consecutive terms.
The amendments provide for the creation of a second parliamentary chamber known as the Council of Senators. It would have 180 members, two-thirds elected by the public and the rest appointed by the president.
Article 200 of the constitution on the role of the military is expanded, giving the military a duty to protect “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental make-up of the country and its civil nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedoms of individuals”.
The amendments also create the post of vice president, allowing the president to appoint one or more deputies. They task the president with choosing head judges and the public prosecutor from a pool of senior candidates pre-selected by the judiciary. They further create a quota setting women’s representation in parliament at a minimum of 25 percent.
Critics say the amendments are driven by Sisi and his close entourage, and by the powerful security and intelligence agencies. They also fear the changes thrust the armed forces into political life by formally assigning them a role in protecting democracy.
Source: The Hindu
The United States Department of Justice has released the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The report looks into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential elections which saw incumbent US President Donald Trump rise to power.
The report states that the Russian government-sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.
Nepal’s first satellite NepaliSat-1 was recently launched into space from the Virginia-based station of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US.
NepaliSat-1 will collect information about the country’s topography and Earths magnetic field. The satellite is equipped with a 5MP camera to capture Nepal’s topography and a magnetometer to collect data related to the Earth’s magnetic field.
The satellite was developed by two Nepalis Abhas Maskey and Hariram Shrestha at Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology.
Naval fleet reviews
China is planning to observe an international fleet review on April 23 at Qingdao to mark the 70th anniversary of founding its naval forces. Nearly 60 countries are sending naval delegations for the fleet review, including India (INS Kolkata and INS Shakti), Japan, South Korea and others. The United States declined to be part of the show.
Naval fleet reviews intend to not only gather forces from other countries but make a statement about a nation coming of age in this domain. Such shows are intended to enhance confidence building. They as well seek to legitimize the official stance on various “core interests” but also seek consent and respect from other navies. These go a long way in ushering conventional deterrence in the region. Domestically, fleet reviews suggest to the coalescing of forces in supporting maritime agenda of the nation and the leadership.
Asian Tea Alliance (ATA)
The Asian Tea Alliance (ATA) was launched in Guizhou in China.
Asian Tea Alliance (ATA) is a union of five tea-growing and consuming countries. The members of the alliance are the Indian Tea Association, China Tea Marketing Association, Indonesian Tea Marketing Association, Sri Lanka Tea Board and Japan Tea Association.
ATA plans to work towards enhancing tea trade, cultural exchanges, technology exchanges as well as globally promoting tea. It will also work towards enhancing global consumption of tea, while creating a sustainability agenda for the future of Asian tea.