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January 2020 - Science & Technology



  • The Indian Space Agency Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) unveiled Vyommitra, a prototype of half humanoid. ISRO has decided to send Vyommitra as a trial to space before Gaganyaan which has aimed at sending astronauts to space in an orbital spacecraft. Vyommitra will be sent ahead of the first unmanned mission under Gaganyaan. It has been designed in a way that it will simulate most of the human body functions. The half humanoid has no legs. It will try to simulate a human and report back to ISRO.


  • Marine scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have installed the country’s first solar-powered Biorock in the Gulf of Kutch off the Gujarat coast to regenerate endangered corals. Biorocks are steel structures that installed on the seabed and are connected to a power source, such as solar panels, which stay afloat on the sea surface. Very low doses of electricity – less than 12 volts – are passed through the steel structure via cables.


  • First waste to energy plant of Indian Railways has been commissioned at Carriage Repair Workshop, Mancheswar, East Coast Railway (ECoR). This is the first government of India initiative in waste to energy plant of such large scale. The world class technology has been inducted here to deal with garbage disposal.


  • Union Minister of State for PMO Dr Jitendra Singh launched the Bhuvan Panchayat V3 web Portal that will enhance network application of gram panchayats. The Portal will function with the help of satellite technology developed by ISRO. Inaugurating the web portal in Anthariksh Bhavan, ISRO Head Quarters in Bengaluru on Jan 28, 2020 the minister said, Indian space technology is designed to benefit every Indian household. He said, the workshop on space-based information support for decentralized plannings will connect gram panchayats and help the flow of information.


  • The Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari recently launched online Web Portal ‘GATI.’ It has been prepared by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) after taking inspiration from PMO’s PRAGATI portal. One can reach the GATI portal via NHAI website or it can be directly used. People can raise projects or construction-related issued on this portal. Not only this, the problem raised will be monitored daily by a team of officers in NHAI. 

    Benefits of GATI Portal :
    • The GATI portal will be reviewed by senior officials of the ministry.
    • This will not only bring transparency in the works but will also speed up the decision to boost the national highway construction work.
    • Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari said on this occasion that the ministry will issue instructions wherever a problem arises related to the highway construction.
    • This portal will be monitored by a team of NHAI officials. Instant action will be taken on the complaints lodged on this portal.


  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) proposed 2,700 crores of infrastructure plans to construct its first Human Space Flight Infrastructure Centre (HSFIC) on January 06, 2020. This astronaut hub will be established Challakere, Chitradurga district of Karnataka. It is expected that this center will start functioning in the next three years. Various activities related to the training of astronauts to manned missions will be conducted here. This pace is about 200 km from Bengaluru. Challakere is also known as Science City where various other scientific establishments are already working.

    • ISRO has prepared a proposal of Rs 2700 crore for the development of this center. There will be no need to go elsewhere for activities related to manned missions when this center is ready.
    • Three astronauts will be sent to space by the year 2022 under the Gaganyaan mission. Four astronauts have been selected for training in Russia.
    • There are centers of Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO), Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and ISRO spread over an area of about 10,000 acres.


  • A team of astronomers at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) in Pune, India have discovered a mysterious ring of hydrogen gas around a distant galaxy. Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) was used to discover it. The ring is much bigger than the galaxy it surrounds and has a diameter of about 380,000 light-years (about 4 times that of our Milky Way).


  • ISRO has set up a regional academic centre for space (RAC-S) at the National Institute of Technology (NITK) at Surathkal in Karnataka's southwest Dakshina Kannada district. ISRO will provide Rs 2 crore grant annually to NIT for the R&D projects and promotional activities through the year. An agreement regarding this was signed between ISRO and NITK on 3 Jan 2020.


  • Union Minister for Commerce and Industries Piyush Goyal has said that Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will contribute one trillion dollars by the year 2035. Artificial intelligence-powered learning ecosystem will assist the banking, financial services and insurance sector. The Minister inaugurated the National Stock Exchange (NSE) Knowledge Hub in New Delhi.


  • ISRO has announced that it aims to launch its own satellite pair for space communication purposes, called Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS). IDRSS will be pivotal in maintaining communication with the astronaut crew and ground mission control at any given phase, during manned space missions. The two satellites, which will be deployed in phases, are already being worked on by ISRO.


  • Chinese state media reported that scientists have identified a new coronavirus as the likely cause of a pneumonia-like illness that has sickened dozens of people. Coronaviruses are a specific family of viruses, with some of them causing less-severe damage, such as the common cold, and others causing respiratory and intestinal diseases. Apart from human beings, coronaviruses can affect mammals including pigs, cattle, cats, dogs, martens, camels, hedgehogs and some birds.


  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched ‘GSAT-30’ from French Guiana on January 17, 2020. The launch of the high power communication satellite is ISRO’s first satellite launch of the year 2020. The GSAT-30 communication satellite will aim to provide high-quality telecommunications, television and broadcasting services. GSAT-30 communication satellite was launched aboard Ariane 5 launch vehicle (VA 251) from French Guiana early morning on January 17. The satellite with an approximate weight of 3357 kg will have a mission life of more than 15 years. GSAT 30 will serve as a replacement to INSAT-4A spacecraft services with enhanced coverage. The satellite was launched along with the European Space Company’s telecommunication satellite- Eutelsat Konnect. 

    Highlights 
    • GSAT-30 is an operational communication satellite with a mission life of up to 15 years. It has been configured to give a boost to communication services such as television uplink, DTH, digital satellite news and VSAT. It weighs approximately 3357 kg.
    • The satellite derives its heritage from ISRO's previous INSAT/GSAT satellite series. It will replace INSAT-4A spacecraft services with enhanced coverage.
    • It will mainly provide Indian mainland and island coverage in Ku-band. It will also provide extended coverage in C-band, which will help television broadcasters to broadcast their programmes across India, Australia, Gulf nations and a large number of Asian countries.
    • The satellite was launched by ISRO in collaboration with the European aerospace company Arianespace. The launch marks Ariane V launch vehicle’s 107th flight.
    • The launch vehicle first placed GSAT-30 in its designated orbit, followed by the release of Konnect. The full mission lasted for approximately 38 minutes and 25 seconds from liftoff to final separation. GSAT 30 successfully separated from the upper stage of Ariane 5.


  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has announced that it will provide support to state governments to help them set up monitoring centres that will track public service vehicles including buses and cab operators like Ola and Uber. The move aims to ensure the safety of passengers using public transport in the country. Earlier, due to lack of funds, the State governments were not able to set up vehicle monitoring centres. The Centre aims to provide a grant to states for effective implementation of the system. States like Kerala and Uttarakhand have established the centres but was not even able to know if public vehicles have these features since there is no body established to monitor these 

    Transport vehicles monitoring centres:Supreme Court-mandated all public transport vehicles to have vehicle tracking systems and emergency buttons with effect from 1 January 2020. All the states have made small progress in setting up the monitoring centres. Hence, the transport ministry is to provide financial support under the Nirbhaya Fund which is managed by the Ministry of Women & child development. The estimated cost of the project is Rs.463 crore. Out of the total estimated amount, the Centre will bear Rs.332 crore, while the states will share Rs.131 crore.


  • Scientists discovered a new species of bone-eating worm during a study to investigate the deep ocean's ecosystem. The bone-eating worm is yet to be named. It is the first of its kind found in the Gulf of Mexico. The bone-eating worm belongs to the Osedax family, a genus of deep-sea bone worms.


  • NASA’s planet hunter satellite TESS has discovered an exoplanet orbiting two stars instead of one - and it was identified by a high school intern. But the newly found planet's size alone — it is 6.9 times larger than Earth, almost the size of Saturn — makes it unlikely to be livable. Named TOI 1338 b, it is the only planet in the TOI 1338 system, which lies 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Pictor, and orbits its stars every 95 days. The two stars orbit each other every 15 days. One is about 10 percent bigger than our Sun, while the other is cooler, dimmer and only one-third the Sun’s mass. TOI 1338 b was identified by Wolf Cukier.


  • Border Roads Organization (BRO) has inducted hi-tech snow clearance and cutting machines in Jammu and Kashmir which are state of the art snow clearance equipment that clear one kilometre of snow in just three hours. Snowfall in winter blocks important strategic roads including the Srinagar-Leh, Jammu-Srinagar, Gurez-Bandipora and Kupwara-Karnah highways which takes a lot of time for clearance. To deal with the problem, seven high-tech snow cutter FRESIA machines have been purchased by the BRO from Italy for swift snow cutting and clearance of these important highways and passes. BRO so far have received four of the machines and the rest will be imported soon. The machines have been put to use at Jawahar tunnel on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, Tregbal in Bandipora-Gurez road, Nowgam in Handwara and Sadhna Pass in Tanghdar, Kupwara. These machines can operate at an altitude of even 18,500 feet and above and have the capability of clearing 5,000 tonnes of snow per hour.


  • Bengaluru will have India’s first space flight training simulator centre and astronauts training centre before the country embarks upon manned mission to outer space by 2022. Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman Dr K Sivan said this during the inauguration of a three-day international symposium on Human spaceflight and exploration held in Bengaluru on January 22, 2020. Speaking about Gaganyaan, India’s first manned mission to outer space, he said, essential critical technology needed for the mission is developed by ISRO and is now working on ground systems, life support systems and life sciences relevant for outer space. ISRO will conduct two unmanned missions in December this year and June next year to test all these critical technologies using humanoids. 

    The crew capsule prepared by ISRO is capable of taking three astronauts to outer space for seven days and bring them back. Speaking on the occasion, the Principle Scientific advisor to Government of India Prof. K Vijaya Raghavan said Indian space programme has social relevance and Indian astronauts going to outer space in the Indian made spacecraft will inspire younger generation in the years to come. The Heads of Space agencies from eight countries and eight astronauts are taking part in the symposium. There will be 10 technical sessions on five themes related to crew training, life support system and human space flight systems.


  • Researchers have identified for the first time the mechanism by which chronic stress causes hair colour loss, an advance that may lead to the development of novel drugs which can prevent the whitening of hair. In the study, published in the journal Nature, the scientists induced intense pain in special black mice for several weeks using a substance called resiniferatoxin, and turned the animals' fur completely white. 

    The researchers said resiniferatoxin, which activated sensory nerve fibres, is a naturally occurring chemical found in resin spurge (Euphorbia resinifera), a cactus-like plant native to Morocco. According to the scientists, the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the body's rapid involuntary response to dangerous situations, is affected directly by the stress, and consists of nerves that branch from the spine and run throughout the body. It controls the organism's "fight or flight" response to sudden danger, launching a flash flood of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to make the heart beat faster, blood pressure rise, respiration accelerate and the pupils dilate, among other systemic effects.



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