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September 6, 2021
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4th September Current Affairs

NASA’s Perseverance rover

(GS-III: Awareness in Space)

In News:

NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully collected its first rock sample for return to Earth. NASA has called it a perfect core sample.

Details:

NASA plans to launch more spacecraft to retrieve the samples collected by Perseverance.

Perseverance arrived in February 2021 at Mars’ Jezero Crater, the site on an ancient lake— in search of rocks that might hold evidence of ancient life.

Why is this mission significant?

It carried a unique instrument, MOXIE or Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment: which for the first time manufactured molecular oxygen on Mars using carbon dioxide from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere (ISRU means In Situ Resource Utilization: or the use of local resources to meet human needs or requirements of the spacecraft).

It carried Ingenuity,the first ever helicopter to fly on Mars.

It is the planned first step to bring back rock samples from Marsfor analysis in sophisticated laboratories on Earth: with the goal of looking for biosignatures: or signatures of present or past life.

These are some of the key mission objectives:

  • Look for signs of ancient microbial life.
  • Collect Martian rock and dust samples for later return to Earth.
  • Deliver an experimental helicopter.
  • Study the climate and geology of Mars.
  • Demonstrate technology for future Mars missions.

What is the reason for the near-term interest in Mars?

  • Mars is located in the very near backyard (about 200 million km away).
  • It is a planet that humans can aspire to visit or to stay for a longer duration.
  • Mars had flowing water and an atmosphere in the distant past: and perhaps conditions to support life.
  • It also has implications for commercial travel.

Edible Oil Prices

(GS-III: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country)

In News:

Edible oil prices are likely to reduce by December as international commodity futures show a declining trend and the production of domestic oilseed crops.

Recent Rise in the prices of Edible Oil:

Last year, the retail prices of six edible oils — groundnut, mustard, vanaspati, soya, sunflower, and palm oil had risen up to 48%. This was due to

Surge in global prices, and lower domestic production of soybean which is India’s largest oilseed crop.

Excessive buying of edible oil by China.

Many major oil producers are aggressively pursuing biofuel policies and diverting their edible oil crops for that purpose.

Governmental taxes and duties also make up a major chunk of the retail price of edible oils in India.

India’s Dependence on Edible Oil:

India is the world’s biggest vegetable oil importer.

India imports about 60% of its edible oil needs, leaving the country’s retail prices vulnerable to international pressures.

It imports palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, soyoil from Brazil and Argentina, and sunflower oil, mainly from Russia and Ukraine.

Facts about Edible Oils:

  • Primary sources of Edible oil (Soybean, Rapeseed & Mustard, Groundnut, Sunflower, Safflower & Niger) and secondary sources of Edible Oil (Oil palm, Coconut, Rice Bran, Cotton seeds & Tree Borne Oilseeds).
  • In India major challenges in oilseed production is
  • Growing in largely rain-fed conditions (around 70% area),
  • high seed cost (Groundnut and Soybean),
  • small holding with limited resources,
  • low seed replacement rate and low productivity.

Recently the Government announced the National Edible Oil Mission-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) to boost domestic oilseed production and make the country self-sufficient in cooking oils.

Mu variant of coronavirus

(GS-III: Issues related to biotechnology)

In News:

World Health Organization (WHO) has classified another SARS-CoV-2 variant — B.1.621 — as a variant of interest (VOI) and has called it Mu variant.

Details:

The four other variants of interest are Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda.

Mu variant was first found in Colombia in January 2021, and has been found in about 39 countries so far.

There have been few reported cases of the Mu variant and some larger outbreaks have been reported from countries in South America and in Europe.

What is Variant of interest (VOI):

A VOI is classified based on factors such as genetic changes that affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape etc.

A VOI represents a lower level of concern than a variant of concern (VOC) such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and

Variant of concern are associated with factors such as an increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in epidemiology, etc.

How do variants of a virus emerge and why?

Variants of a virus have one or more mutations that differentiate it from the other variants that are in circulation.

Essentially, the goal of the virus is to reach a stage where it can cohabitate with humans because it needs a host to survive.

Errors in the viral RNA are called mutations, and viruses with these mutations are called variants. Variants could differ by a single or many mutations.

What is a mutation?

A mutation means a change in the genetic sequence of the virus.

In the case of SARS-CoV-2,which is a Ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus, a mutation means a change in the sequence in which its molecules are arranged.

A mutation in an RNA virus often happens when the virus makes a mistake while it is making copies of itself.

Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)

(GS-III: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment)

In News:

24th meeting of Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)

Details:

The 24th meeting deliberated on various mandates of the FSDC such as financial stability, financial sector development, inter-regulatory coordination, financial literacy, financial inclusion, and macro prudential supervision of the economy including the functioning of large financial conglomerates.

The council also discussed issues relating to

  • Management of stressed assets,
  • strengthening institutional mechanism for financial stability analysis,
  • framework for resolution of financial institutions and issues related to IBC,
  • data sharing mechanisms of government authorities,
  • internationalisation of the Indian rupee and
  • pension sector related issues.

About Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC):

  • Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) was set up by the Government as the apex level forum in December 2010.
  • The Chairman of the Council is the Union Finance Minister and its members include
  • The heads of financial sector Regulators (RBI, SEBI, PFRDA, IRDA & FMC)
  • Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs,
  • Secretary, Department of Financial Services, and
  • Chief Economic Adviser.

The Council can invite experts to its meeting if required.