19th May Current Affairs
May 19, 2021
21st May Current Affairs
May 21, 2021
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20th May Current Affairs

China’s ‘Zhurong’ rover

In News:

China’s uncrewed ‘Tianwen-1’ spacecraft recently landed safely on the surface of Mars.

Details:

The spacecraft landed on a large plain located in the northern hemisphere of Mars, known as Utopia Planitia.

This makes China the second country in the world to send a rover to explore the mysterious Red Planet.

Onboard the lander was the ‘Zhurong’ rover, which will soon be deployed to study the Martian atmosphere and geology.

The Tianwent-1, China’s Mars mission:

Launched in July 2020, the mission consists of an orbiter, a lander and a golf cart-sized rover called ‘Zhurong’.

The spacecraft arrived in Mars’ orbit in February this year.

Yinghuo-1 mission:

This is not the first time China has attempted to send a spacecraft to Mars. Nearly ten years ago, the country launched the Yinghuo-1 mission, which ultimately failed after the spacecraft burnt while still in the Earth’s atmosphere after the Russian rocket that was carrying it failed in flight.

What Next?

If ‘Zhurong’ is deployed without a hitch, China will become the first country to successfully orbit, land and offload a rover during its maiden Mars mission.

Which other countries have managed to send rovers to Mars?

Apart from China, only the United States has been able to deploy rovers to study the surface of the Red Planet.

The first successful landing was made by NASA in July 1976, when the Viking 1 rover touched down on Mars.

Shortly after that, Viking 2 arrived on the Red Planet.

In the decades that followed, the US successfully sent the Opportunity and Spirit rovers to explore Mars.

Most recently, in February this year, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed at the Jezero Crater on the Red Planet, after which it resumed work to look for signs of past life.

Air India begins zeolite cargo flight service

In News:

National carrier Air India has begun the first of its “zeolite cargo flights” with the government of India having commenced the process of importing zeolite from across the world for use in medical oxygen plants.

Details:

The government has appointed the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as the charterer for these consignments.

Under the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund, the DRDO is to set up these medical oxygen plants.

Use of Zeolite in medical oxygen plants:

The technology being developed by the DRDO uses the pressure swing adsorption process and molecular sieve zeolite in oxygen generation.

Zeolites are used as adsorbent material.

An oxygen concentrator uses Zeolites to adsorb atmospheric nitrogen and then vents out the nitrogen. This leaves oxygen gas remaining to be used for patients.

In high pressure, the surface area of zeolites increases and thus is capable of adsorbing large quantities of nitrogen.

Pressure Swing Adsorption:

Pressure swing adsorption (PSA) is a technology used to separate some gas species from a mixture of gases under pressure.

PSA operates at near-ambient temperatures.

Specific adsorbent materials (e.g., zeolites, activated carbon, molecular sieves, etc.) are used as a trap, preferentially adsorbing the target gas species at high pressure.

What are Zeolites?

Zeolites are microporous, three dimensional crystalline solid of aluminium silicate. Zeolites have small openings of fixed size in them which allow small molecules to pass through them easily but larger molecules cannot pass through them; that is why they are sometimes called molecular sieve.

Zeolites are either formed naturally or can be synthesized.

Properties Of Zeolites:

Zeolites are very stable solid under different environmental conditions. The melting point of zeolite is very high, i.e.1000oC.

They are insoluble in water or other inorganic solvents.

They do not undergo oxidation in the presence of air.

Zeolites which are rich in alumina are attracted to polar molecules like water whereas zeolite rich in silica are attracted towards nonpolar molecules.

Since zeolites are not reactive and are obtained from naturally occurring minerals, therefore, they do not have any harmful environmental effects; although skin contact or inhalation may have a carcinogenic effect.

186 elephants killed on rail tracks in over 10 years

In News:

According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), a total of 186 elephants were killed after being hit by trains across India between 2009-10 and 2020-21.

Details:

Assam accounted for the highest number of elephant casualties on railway tracks (62), followed by West Bengal (57), and Odisha (27).

Key measures taken:

  • Setting up of a Permanent Coordination Committee between the Ministry of Railways (Railway Board) and the MoEFCC for preventing elephant deaths in train accidents.
  • Clearing of vegetation along railway tracks to enable clear view for loco pilots.
  • Using signage boards at suitable points to alert loco pilots about elephant presence.
  • Moderating slopes of elevated sections of railway tracks.
  • Setting up underpass/overpass for safe passage of elephants.
  • Regulation of train speed from sunset to sunrise in vulnerable stretches.
  • Regular patrolling of vulnerable stretches of railway tracks by frontline staff of the Forest Department and wildlife watchers.

Eco Bridges as a solution:

Eco Bridges are wildlife corridors also known as wildlife crossing that are a link of wildlife habitat which connects two larger areas of similar wildlife habitat.

It connects wildlife populations that would otherwise be separated by human activities or structures such as roads and highways, other infrastructure development, or logging and farming, etc.

Eco Bridges aims at enhancing wildlife connectivity.

These are made up of native vegetation i.e., it is overlaid with planting from the area to give a contiguous look with the landscape.