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June 2020 - Defence, Science and Technology



  • DRDO develops disinfection unit named “Ultra Swachh”
    The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a disinfection unit named Ultra Swachh to disinfect a wide range of materials, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), electronics items, fabrics, etc.

    Key Points
    The system uses an advanced oxidative process (ozonation).

    Ozonation is a type of advanced oxidation process, involving the production of very reactive oxygen species able to attack a wide range of organic compounds and all microorganisms.

    Ozone is more effective than chlorine in destroying viruses and bacteria.

    The system is double layered with specialised Ozone sealant technology assuring trapping of ozone for the necessary disinfection cycle.

    It also has a catalytic converter to ensure environment friendly exhaust i.e only oxygen and water.

    A catalytic converter is a device used in exhaust systems to reduce emissions.

    The Ultra Swachh comes in two variants namely Ozonated Space and Trinetra Technology. Trinetra technology is the combination of Ozonated space and radical dispenser.



  • A3i: Unique Trait in Covid-19 in India
    Recently, scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories have identified a coronavirus type (A3i) that may be the second most prevalent in India and may comprise 3.5% of the genomes globally.

    Key Points
    The scientists analysed 213 genomes and found that 62% of them were A2a, making it the most dominant coronavirus clade in India.

    Clade: The coronavirus type or clade, is a cluster of SARS-CoV-2 viruses that share evolutionary similarities and are grouped together based on characteristic mutations or similarities in parts of their genomes. In layman terms, a clade can be understood as a strain of the virus.

    The newly identified A3i or Clade I/A3i comprised 41%, making it the second most common coronavirus type in India.

    The A3i clade stood out from other clades due to differences at four different places in its sequence.

    According to scientific analysis, the A3i clade mutates slowly compared to the A2a which is often disadvantageous for the virus.

    So far, there is no evidence of whether A3i is more virulent (extremely severe or harmful in its effects) and linked to more deaths.

    A3i is the predominant strain circulating in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Maharashtra and Delhi.

    Significance of the Classification: Such classifications are useful in establishing whether certain strains are particularly virulent, spread more easily, how they are likely to evolve over time and whether some could be less vulnerable to certain kinds of vaccines.

    With the new clade, there are now 11 SARS-CoV-2 types identified globally with at least six of them identified in India.

    Previous studies have shown that while type O was the first ancestral family of the virus identified from China, it’s the A2a type, which is the most dominant in the world because of a mutation in its genes that allow that coronavirus’ spike to more efficiently infiltrate the lungs.

    The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has so far maintained that there are three principal variants in India of the SARS-CoV-2 virus: those that came from Wuhan, the USA, and Europe via air travellers.



  • NCVTC to develop host-directed antivirals for COVID-19 disease
    The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has approved support for the research and study done by the National Centre for Veterinary Type Cultures (NCVTC), ICAR-NRC from Hisar in Haryana. The researchers will screen the library of 94 small molecule chemical inhibitors for antivirals against coronaviruses.

    Highlights:
    The small molecule chemical inhibitors are known to inhibit cellular kinases, phosphatases, and epigenetic regulators like histone methyltransferase, histone deacetylase, and DNA methyltransferase.

    The researchers are exploring alternative strategies to target such cellular proteins, protein-protein (virus-host) interaction, or epigenetic regulators called host-directed antiviral therapy.

    The host-directed antivirals will have fewer tendencies in inducing drug resistance because it is not possible for the virus to easily change missing cellular functions by mutations.

    Also, host-directed antiviral agents will exert broad-spectrum antiviral effects because the requirement of host factors by viruses is usually conserved across the members of a particular virus family or sometimes even across the members of different virus families.

    The antiviral weapon will target cellular proteins, protein-protein (virus-host) interaction, or epigenetic regulators for COVID-19.



  • Annular Solar Eclipse
    India will witness an annular solar eclipse on 21th June, 2020.

    Key Points
    A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth. When this happens, the moon blocks the light of the sun from reaching the earth. The shadow of the moon is then cast on the earth.

    There are three types of solar eclipses:
    Partial solar eclipse: When the sun, moon and earth are not exactly lined up.

    Total solar eclipse: When the sun, moon and earth must be in a direct line.

    Annular solar eclipse: It is a particular type of total solar eclipse. It occurs when the sun, moon and earth are not only in a straight line but also in the same plane.

    The moon also must be farther away from the earth, which will allow it to not cover the disc of the sun completely, resulting in a narrow band of light around the dark colour of the moon causing the ring of fire to be visible.

    Therefore, It is also called the ring of fire eclipse.

    The distance between the earth and the moon at the moment of the eclipse can dictate the type of eclipse that will take place.

    The distance between the earth and the moon is always changing due to the egg-shaped elliptical orbit of the moon.


  • Stellar evolution in the Milky Way Galaxy
    Study showing stars of varied ages can co-exist in open clusters, provides clue to stellar evolution in the Milky Way Galaxy.

    Details:
    Stars in the Milky Way Galaxy are formed from the molecular clouds present in the galaxy.

    Star clusters are important clues to understand the mechanism of star formation because it is believed that a majority of stars in the Milky Way are formed in star clusters.

    Star clusters are groups of stars which are gravitationally bound.

    Open star clusters are a system of stars bound by gravity in which stars are born from the same molecular clouds.

    All the stars in a cluster follow the evolutionary sequence as per their initial masses at the time of formation of these stars.

    Open clusters are also important in probing the formation and evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy as they are distributed throughout the Galactic disk.

    Astronomers at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), an autonomous science institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Govt. of India, have found that stars of varied ages can co-exist in open clusters. This challenges earlier understanding that stars in an open cluster have the same age.

    The scientists measured the light from three poorly studied open clusters NGC 381, NGC 2360, and Berkeley 68 (observed using the 1.3-m telescope at Devasthal Observatory situated in Nainital) for studying the evolution of stars in these clusters.

    They found two different stellar evolutionary sequences in the cluster NGC 2360, which has been observed in very few open clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy until now.

    Other than the stellar evolution, the researchers also studied the dynamical evolution of these clusters for the first time.

    The mass distributions of stars belonging to the clusters have shown the preferential distribution of massive stars in the inner part of the clusters while low mass stars are found towards outer region of the clusters.

    It is believed that some of the very low mass stars have in fact, left their parent clusters and may be roaming as a free star like our own Sun.

    Their study lent important insight about the stellar and dynamical evolution of these clusters.



  • Extreme Helium Stars
    Detection of Fluorine in hot Extreme Helium Stars solves their evolution mystery.

    BACKGROUND:
    An extreme helium star or EHe is a low-mass supergiant that is almost devoid of hydrogen, the most common chemical element of the universe.

    There are 21 of them detected so far in our galaxy.

    The origin and evolution of these Hydrogen deficient objects have been shrouded in mystery.

    Their severe chemical peculiarities challenge the theory of well-accepted stellar evolution as the observed chemical composition of these stars do not match with that predicted for low mass evolved stars.

    The study:
    A study by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), an autonomous institute of the DST, which detected the presence of singly ionised Fluorine for the first time in the atmospheres of hot Extreme Helium Stars makes a strong case that the main formation of these objects involves a merger of a carbon-oxygen (CO) and a Helium (He) white dwarf.

    The research published in the Astrophysical Journal which showed Fluorine abundances determined from singly ionized fluorine (F II) lines, suggest a very high enrichment of Fluorine, about a factor of 100 to 10000 times higher than normal stars.

    Clues to evolution of extreme helium stars require accurate determinations of their chemical composition, and the peculiarities, if any, become very important. Fluorine plays a very crucial role in this regard to determine the actual evolutionary sequence of these hydrogen defcient objects.

    Severe Fluorine enrichment w.r.t normal stars was observed in the cool EHes along-with the cooler classical hydrogen defcient stars, the RCB variables (R Coronae Borealis Stars) hinting at close evolutionary connection between them.

    By comparing the observed Fluorine abundances with other abundances of the key elements, the scientists could determine the formation channels responsible for Fluorine enrichment.

    The varied range of observed Fluorine abundance across stars having similar atmospheric parameters points out the difference in the individual star’s evolution and the ensuing nucleosynthesis.

    Particularly, the enrichment of Fluorine in the atmospheres of carbon-rich EHes and absence of the same in carbon-poor EHes suggest that Fluorine is profusely produced during the merger of a He-CO WD resulting in a carbon-rich EHe, whereas He-He WD merger that results in carbon-poor EHes does not account for Fluorine overabundance.

    The detection of enhanced Fluorine abundances in the atmospheres of hot EHes solves a decade-old mystery about their formation.

    It firmly places hot EHes in an evolutionary sequence with cool EHes and other hydrogen-deficient stars, and zeros in on the evolutionary scenario, which involves the merger of two double degenerate white dwarfs (WDs).


  • The Paper Microscope: Foldscope
    Recently, some doctors have explored and validated the clinical utility of foldscope in the diagnosis of diseases using various patient samples.

    Key Points
    Foldscope:
    It is an affordable microscope that can be made from simple components, including a sheet of paper and a lens. It cost less than a Rs. 100 to make a Foldscope.

    Upon assembly, the device can hold a specimen slide for observation, and this specimen can be viewed via a mobile phone camera attached to it.

    It is portable and durable, and performs on par with conventional microscopes.

    It was developed by Manu Prakash and is part of the "frugal science" movement which aims to make cheap and easy tools available for scientific use in the developing world

    Benefits:
    Foldscope can be used to diagnose diseases like oral health, urinary tract infection (UTI), leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, and monitor kidney stones.

    It can be employed in public healthcare centres for primary diagnosis or as personal health monitoring devices.

    Apart from the medical field it can also be used in agriculture, to detect various types of microorganisms which affect the crops and animals.



  • China launched last BeiDou Satellite System
    China launched the satellite of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System 3 (BDS-3) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province on 23 June 2020.

    BDS-3 Satellite:
    BDS-3 Satellite was carried by a Long March-3B carrier rocket.

    It is the 30th BDS-3 satellite and also the 55th of the whole BeiDou satellite family.

    BDS-3 will offer its users services including high-precision positioning and short message communication. It will bring new highlights to global navigation satellite systems.

    The final BDS satellite weighs over 10,000 pounds. It is the largest of its kind in the family.

    The satellite is filled with propellants for maneuvers in orbit.

    BDS-3 family will allow the constellation to provide more cost-effective navigation services.

    BDS-3 is constructed with 24 satellites in medium-Earth orbits (MEO), three in inclined geosynchronous satellite orbits, and three in geostationary orbits. The satellite is scheduled to provide services worldwide.

    The launch of the satellite marked the completion of China's domestically developed BeiDou constellation, one of four global navigation networks alongside the United States' GPS, Russia's GLObalNAvigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and the European Union's (EU's) Galileo.



  • Private Sector Participation in Space
    Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the creation of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) to provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure.

    This is part of reforms aimed at giving a boost to private sector participation in the entire range of space activities.

    Key points
    IN-SPACe: It will act as a single-point interface between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and everyone who wants to participate in space-related activities, or use India’s space resources.

    It will also hand-hold, promote and guide the private industries in space activities through encouraging policies and a friendly regulatory environment.

    Indian National Space Promotion Board: It would be set up to strengthen the Department of Space and for the promotion of the private space entrepreneurs or non-government space entrepreneurs,

    Role of ISRO: The overall idea is to let ISRO concentrate on essential activities like research and development, planetary exploration, and strategic use of space, while freeing itself from ancillary or routine work which could easily be done by private industry.

    Demand Driven Model: By the support of New Space India Limited (NSIL), It would endeavour to reorient space activities from a ‘supply driven’ model to a ‘demand driven’ one, thereby ensuring optimum utilisation of the nation’s space assets.

    The main objective of NSIL is to scale up industry participation in Indian space programmes in comparison to IN-SPACe which gives emphasis on the participation of the private sector.

    Significance
    Level Playing Field for Private Companies: IN-SPACe will provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure.

    Research and Development Activities: These reforms will allow ISRO to focus more on new technologies, exploration missions and human spaceflight programme.

    Some of the planetary exploration missions will also be opened up to the private sector through an ‘announcement of opportunity’ mechanism.

    Fruitful Dissemination of Space Technologies: Allowing industries and others like students, researchers or academic bodies greater access to space assets would lead to a much better utilisation of India space resources.

    Socio-economic use of Space Assets: The proposed body would attempt to enhance the activities, including access to space assets data and activities

    Global Technology Powerhouse: It will enable Indian Industry to be an important player in the global space economy. With this, there is an opportunity for large-scale employment in the technology sector and India becoming a Global technology powerhouse.


  • Ocean Mapping: Seabed 2030 Project
    Recently, it was announced that mapping of nearly one-fifth of the world’s ocean floor had been finished under the Seabed 2030 Project.

    Key Points
    Seabed 2030 Project:
    Seabed 2030 is a collaborative project between the Nippon Foundation of Japan and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).

    It was launched at the United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2017 and is aligned with the UN's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

    The United Nations Ocean Conference intended to be a game-changer in reversing the decline in the health of the ocean for people, planet and prosperity.

    The project aims to bring together all available bathymetric data to produce the definitive map of the world ocean floor by 2030 and make it available to all.

    Bathymetry is the measurement of the shape and depth of the ocean floor.

    In the past, satellites and planes carrying altimeter instruments have been able to provide large swathes of data about the ocean floor.

    However, the Seabed 2030 Project aims to obtain higher quality information that has a minimum resolution of 100 metres at all spots, using equipment such as deepwater hull-mounted sonar systems, and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).

    Importance of the Study of the Ocean Floor:

    Helps in understanding several natural phenomena, including ocean circulation, tides and biological hotspots.

    Provides key inputs for navigation, forecasting disasters, exploration for oil and gas projects, building offshore wind turbines, fishing resources, and for laying cables and pipelines.

    Ensure a better understanding of climate change.

    Climate change has impacted the flow of ocean currents and has led to sea-level rise.



  • Researchers finds new biomolecules to fight drug resistance in Kala-azar
    Researchers at the Department of Biotechnology’s National Centre for Cell Science (DBT-NCCS) in Pune discovered new biomolecules to fight drug resistance in Kala-azar exploring ways to tackle miltefosine resistance.

    Highlights:
    The researchers worked with one of the species of Leishmania that causes infection, called Leishmania major. The researchers manipulated the transporter proteins in the species in a manner that would result in increased uptake of the drug and decrease in its being thrown out of the parasite’s body.

    The researcher used a computational method to design small molecules, called peptides, that could very specifically interact with the transporter proteins of L. major alone, and not interfere with human proteins in any way.

    The peptides were designed to modulate the transporter proteins “allosterically”, that is, by interacting with the protein molecule at a location other than the specific location where miltefosine binds to it.

    The outcomes of the research indicated that this approach could prove useful in the long run to develop novel therapeutics against drug-resistant Leishmania parasites.

    Background:
    Leishmaniasis is a tropical disease affecting almost 100 countries including India. It is caused by a parasite called Leishmania. It is transmitted through the bite of sandflies.

    There are three main forms of leishmaniasis are:

    visceral, which affects multiple organs and is the most serious form of the disease

    cutaneous causes skin sores and is the most common form

    mucocutaneous causes skin and mucosal lesion

    Visceral leishmaniasis is commonly known as Kala-azar in India. It is fatal in over 95% of the cases if left untreated. The only drug available against leishmaniasis is miltefosine. This drug is rapidly losing its effectiveness because of emerging resistance to this drug due to a decrease in its accumulation inside the parasite, which is necessary for the drug to kill the parasite.

    Specific types of protein molecules called transporter proteins to play a major role in carrying miltefosine into and out of the parasite’s body, which comprises a single cell. A protein called ‘P4ATPase-CDC50’ is responsible for the intake of the drug by the parasite, and another protein, called ‘P-glycoprotein’, is responsible for throwing this drug out from within the parasite’s body.



  • Indian Navy inducted indigenously developed Torpedo Decoy System
    Indian Navy (IN) has inducted indigenously developed Torpedo Decoy System on 26 June 2020. The Advanced Torpedo Decoy System Maareech was designed and developed DRDO labs, Naval Science & Technological Laboratory (NSTL), and Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL).

    Torpedo Decoy System:
    Anti-Submarine Warfare capability of the Indian Navy has received a major boost with the conclusion of a contract for Advanced Torpedo Decoy System Maareech capable of being fired from all frontline warships.

    Bharat Electronics Limited, a Defence PSU, will undertake the production of this decoy system.

    The prototype of the system was installed onboard and a nominated naval platform had successfully completed all user evaluation trials and demonstrated the features as per the Naval Staff Qualification Requirements.

    The induction is the joint resolution of the Indian Navy and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) towards the indigenous development of Defence technology.

    This has given a major fillip to the Government's 'Make in India' initiative and the country's resolve to become 'Atmanirbhar' in niche technology.



  • Gravel geometry of the Indus river unravel its paleoclimatic history
    Researchers from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun, have traced the paleoclimatic history of the Indus River in Ladakh Himalaya. It was traced with the help of geometric data from overlapping gravels of channel fills.

    Highlights:
    The researchers studied the discharge during periods in which the river experienced an increase in land elevation, due to the deposition of sediment and its incision.

    River Terraces are part of valley-wide aggradations, which has been studied extensively in Himalaya to understand the processes driving such a periodic increase in river valley land elevation and incision.

    The researchers studied the discharge during periods of established river aggradation and incision of the Indus River, Ladakh Himalaya over late Quaternary.

    The researchers used the geometric data from overlapping gravels of channel fills to calculate paleo discharges during net river aggradation at 47–23 ka (thousand years), and preserved slack water deposits (SWDs) at 14–10 ka to constrain paleo discharges that occurred during net river incision.

    The researchers also observed that the aggradation in the Himalayan rivers occurred in glacial-interglacial transient warm climatic conditions (33–21 ka and 17–14 ka) when the sediment budget in the rivers increased just after the glacial events.

    The recent study showed that aggradation took place in the Indus River when sediment to water ratio was higher during MIS-3 (Marine isotope stages (MIS).

    Marine oxygen-isotope stages are alternating warm and cool periods in the Earth's paleoclimate, deduced from oxygen isotope data reflecting changes in temperature derived from data from deep-sea core samples) and incision initiated when sediment to water ratio reduced during post-glacial climatically wet phase (early Holocene).



  • Persistent global transmission of chikungunya from India
    The study conducted by the ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune on the geographic distribution and evolution of the chikungunya virus over the period from 2005-2018

    Background:
    Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The virus is transmitted from by the bites of infected female mosquitoes. Most commonly, the mosquitoes involved are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two species which can also transmit other mosquito-borne viruses, including dengue.

    It causes fever and severe joint pain. There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.

    The disease mostly occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

    Details:
    The study notes India as an endemic reservoir for the chikungunya virus with persistent global transmissions from the country.

    Observations from the phylogeography study based on the genome sequences of the strains found in different countries over the period from 2005 to 2018, showed persistent global transmissions from India.

    The study claims the dispersal of the strains from India to neighbouring as well as distant countries.



  • New Drug for Amoebiasis
    Recently, researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have developed new drug molecules against the protozoa ‘Entamoeba histolytica’ that causes amoebiasis.

    Key Points
    The Protozoa and High Oxygen Level:
    The protozoa is anaerobic or microaerophilic in nature such that it cannot survive high concentrations of oxygen.

    Anaerobic organisms are those who exist in the absence of free oxygen.

    A microaerophilic atmosphere is ideal for a microorganism that can grow under reduced oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels.

    However, during infection, it faces a high surge of oxygen inside the human body. The organism synthesizes large amounts of cysteine to counter oxidative stress.

    Synthesis of Cysteine:
    This pathogen deploys cysteine as one of the essential molecules in its defence mechanism against high oxygen levels. It expresses two crucial enzymes for synthesizing cysteine.

    Cysteines are enzymes that degrade proteins in the body.

    Cysteine biosynthesis is crucial for the survival of E. histolytica and for similar protozoan parasites.

    JNU Research:
    Researchers have characterized and determined the molecular structures of both the crucial enzymes.

    They have also successfully screened for potent inhibitors for one of the enzymes, O-acetyl L-serine sulfhydrylase (OASS).

    Some of these inhibitors can check the growth of this organism with high efficacy by targeting their pathways.

    The identified molecules can lead to the development of drug molecules.



  • Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence
    India has joined the 'Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)' as a founding member to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

    Key Points
    Objective: GPAI is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI, based on human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.

    Functions:
    Bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.

    An example would be looking at how AI could help societies respond to and recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

    Bring together leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia to conduct research and pilot projects on AI.

    It will initially comprise four working groups focused on responsible AI, data governance, the future of work, and innovation and commercialisation.

    Founding Members: Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Organization:
    GPAI will be supported by a Secretariat, to be hosted by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, as well as by two Centers of Expertise- one each in Montreal (Canada) and Paris (France).

    GPAI will be able to take advantage of the OECD’s expertise on AI policy and its leadership in setting out the first international standard for trustworthy AI – the OECD Principles on Artificial Intelligence.

    The OECD will also be a Permanent Observer to the GPAI’s governing bodies.

    Background: Born out of the Canadian and French G7 Presidencies in 2018 and 2019, GPAI was officially proposed by France and Canada at the Biarritz Summit in August 2019.



  • Recent Initiatives by India in the Field of AI
    India has recently launched National AI Strategy and National AI Portal and have also started leveraging AI across various sectors such as education, agriculture, healthcare, e-commerce, finance, telecommunications, etc.

    The National AI strategy was released in 2018 by NITI Aayog. It is termed ‘AIForAll’ as it is focused on leveraging AI for inclusive growth in line with the Government policy of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.

    Role of the Government has been clearly delineated to develop the research ecosystem, promote adoption and address skilling challenges.

    The strategy also flags important issues like ethics, bias and privacy issues relating to AI and envisions Government promoting research in technology to address these concerns.

    The focus is on sectors like agriculture, health and education where public investment and lead would be necessary.

    National AI Portal:
    It has been developed jointly by the National e-Governance Division of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom). The portal is meant to work as a “one stop digital platform" for all AI related developments in India.

    Responsible AI for Youth Programme: It is aimed at imparting education and skills in AI to students in government schools.



  • Gateway Lunar Orbiting Outpost
    Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has finalised the contract to design the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) for its Gateway Lunar Orbiting Outpost.

    The Habitation and Logistics (HALO) support for the Gateway, is a part of NASA’s Artemis program that aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024.

    Key Points
    Habitation and Logistics (HALO)

    It refers to the pressurised living quarters where astronauts will spend their time while visiting the Gateway.

    These quarters will be about the size of a small apartment and will provide augmented life support together with Orion spacecraft.

    The Gateway:
    NASA has targeted the completion of the Gateway for 2026, while work on the spaceship is already underway.

    The Gateway can be used at least once per year and astronauts cannot stay around the year like they do on the International Space Station (ISS).

    Once docked to the Gateway, astronauts will be able to stay there for three months at a time.

    Compared to the ISS, the Gateway is much smaller.

    Significance:
    It will act as an airport, where spacecraft bound for the lunar surface of Mars can refuel or replace parts and resupply things like food and oxygen, allowing astronauts to take multiple trips to the Lunar surface and exploration of new locations across the Moon.

    By studying the geology of the Earth, the Moon, and Mars – the three planetary bodies and the ways in which they are similar and different from each other, it would give a sight about how planets and planetary systems form.

    Significantly, Gateway would work as a science platform to look back at the Earth, observe the Sun, and get unobstructed views of the vast universe.



  • Dexamethasone Drug
    Recently, scientists administering the World Health Organisation’s RECOVERY trial have reported that dexamethasone reduced Covid-19 deaths in severe patients.

    Dexamethasone is a cheap and widely available steroid drug.

    Key Points
    Highlights of the Research:
    The drug was given either orally or through an IV (intravenous).

    After 28 days, it had reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen.

    The drug is not helpful for less ill patients and for those who do not need respiratory support.

    According to the estimates, this drug can prevent one death for every eight patients treated while on breathing machines and one for every 25 patients on extra oxygen alone.

    Drug Mechanism:
    Multi-system Inflammatory State is a Covid-19 related illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels leading to low blood pressure, affecting the entire body as it causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs and other organs.

    The inflammation can be fatal so steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs are used to reduce it.

    Dexamethasone is not an anti-viral but works to modulate the immune response of the body when confronted by a viral infection such as Covid-19.

    Benefits:
    The survival benefit is clear and large in severe patients.

    It is highly affordable, easy to make, can be scaled up quickly and only needs a small dosage.

    It is a cheaper option than tocilizumab, an injectable, which is also being tested.



  • Antiviral Drug Umifenovir
    The Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, a constituent lab of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has received permission for carrying out Phase III trials for the use of Umifenovir against Covid-19.

    These trials will be randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled that will test the efficacy, safety and tolerability of the drug.

    Key Points
    Safe: Umifenovir has already been used for the treatment of influenza in China and Russia and therefore is safe. It recently came into prominence due to its potential use for Covid-19 patients. The clinical trial is to evaluate its efficacy in Indian patients.

    Strengthens Immune System: It acts by preventing entry of the virus into human cells and also by priming the immune system.

    Indigenously Developed: All the raw materials for the drug are indigenously available and if the clinical trial is successful, Umifenovir can be a safe, efficacious, affordable drug against Covid-19.

    Potential Prophylactic Use: It has the potential for prophylactic use. A prophylactic is a medication or a treatment designed and used to prevent a disease from occurring.

    CSIR’s Efforts Against Covid-19:
    The CSIR is evaluating Mycobacterium W (Mw) for faster recovery of hospitalised Covid-19 infected patients.

    The clinical trial of the Favipiravir drug has also been allowed by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).



  • I-Lab: Mobile Testing Facility
    Recently, the government has launched the country’s first mobile I-Lab (Infectious disease diagnostic Lab) for last mile Covid-19 testing access.

    It has been created by a team from the Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone Limited (AMTZ) under the National Biopharma Mission.

    Key Points
    The Department of Biotechnology (DBT - Ministry of Science & Technology) under the Covid-Command strategy has supported building of mobile testing labs (I-Labs) through AMTZ.

    The Lab belongs to the BioSafety Level (BSL-II) category.

    BSLs are ranked from one to four and are categorised on the basis of the organisms that the researchers are dealing with. The organisms include viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc.

    BSL-I is considered to be the least hazardous, while BSL-IV poses the maximum safety risk. Each level builds on the previous category, adding more layers of constraints and barriers.

    It will be deployed in interior, iaccessible parts of the country and has the capability to perform 25 RT-PCR tests a day, 300 ELISA tests a day and additional tests for TB, HIV as per CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) rates.

    RT-PCR and ELISA tests have been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for Covid-19.

    CGHS provides comprehensive medical care to central government employees and pensioners enrolled under the scheme. Rates of different procedures are decided under the Scheme.



  • Micius: A Quantum-Enabled Satellite
    Recently, satellite Micius has sent light particles to Earth to establish the world’s most secure communication link.

    Key Points
    Micius:
    It is the world’s first quantum communications satellite, launched by China in 2016.

    The satellite serves as the source of pairs of entangled photons.

    Entangled photons are twinned light particles whose properties remain intertwined no matter how far apart they are.

    If one of the photons is manipulated, the other will be similarly affected at the very same moment.

    It is this property that lies in the heart of the most secure forms of quantum cryptography (the study of concepts like encryption and decryption).

    If one of the entangled particles is used to create a key for encoding messages, only the person with the other particle can decode them.

    Recent Developments:
    Micius has successfully brought entanglement-based quantum cryptography to its original ground stations 1,200 km apart by sending simultaneous streams of entangled photons to the ground stations to establish a direct link between the two of them.

    The satellite provided entangled photons as a convenient resource for the quantum cryptography and the two ground stations then used them according to their agreed protocol.

    None of the communication went through Micius (i.e behaved like a blind transmitter) providing the ground stations a robust and unbreakable cryptographic protection without the need to trust the satellite.

    Until now, this had never been done via satellite or at such great distances.

    It has not been specified how the messages were transmitted in this instance but in theory it could be done by optical fibre, another communications satellite, radio or any other agreed method.

    Scientists have started using quantum encryption for securing long-range communication and Micius has been at the forefront of quantum encryption for several years.

    Quantum Race:
    The disclosure of internet surveillance by western governments prompted China to boost quantum cryptography research in order to create more secure means of communication.

    The launch of Micius and quantum communication systems with its help have been compared to the effect Sputnik had on the space race in the 20th century.

    Sputnik was the first artificial Earth satellite launched by the Soviet Union into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4th October 1957.

    Any country could theoretically trust Micius to provide entangled photons to secure its communications but the satellite is a strategic resource that other countries would want to replicate giving further boost to the quantum race which has political and military implications that are hard to ignore.



  • CeNS develops low-cost catalyst for hydrogen generation from water
    Center for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS) scientist has discovered that a low cost and efficient way to generate hydrogen from water using Molybdenum dioxide as a catalyst.

    They have found that Molybdenum dioxide (MoO2) nanomaterials annealed in hydrogen atmosphere can act as efficient catalysts. Using this, Hydrogen can be generated from water and produces water on energy generation without any carbon footprint.

    Highlights:
    MoO2 (Molybdenum dioxide) can replace the currently employed catalyst Pt, which is expensive and has limited resources.

    It can act as an efficient catalyst to reduce the energy input to bring about water splitting with great efficiency.

    Hydrogen can be generated by the Electrolytic splitting of water. But it requires energy input that can be brought down in the presence of a catalyst.

    The metal oxide nanomaterial is a cheaper alternative to the precious noble metal catalysts such as Platinum, presently employed in industry for water electrolysis.

    The catalyst is highly stable for a longer duration of reaction with sustained hydrogen evolution from water.

    About 80% efficient conversion of electrical energy into hydrogen has been achieved using this catalyst.



  • 163348 (2002 NN4): A Near-Earth Asteroid
    Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that a giant asteroid called as 163348 (2002 NN4), is expected to pass Earth on 6th June 2020.

    However, it is approaching the Earth within the safe limit of distance.

    Key Points
    163348 (2002 NN4):
    It was discovered in July 2002 and is expected to approach the earth in June 2020.

    The asteroid is estimated to be between 250-570 meters in diameter.

    The asteroid is a Near-Earth Object and classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA).

    Near-Earth Objects (NEOs):
    NEOs are comets and asteroids pushed by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits which allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.

    These objects are composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles.

    NEOs occasionally approach close to the Earth as they orbit the Sun.

    NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Study (CNEOS) determines the times and distances of these objects, when their approach to the Earth is close, through the Asteroid Watch Widget.

    Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA):
    It means that an asteroid has the potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.

    Specifically, all asteroids with a Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) of 0.05 AU (which is about 7,480,000 Km) or less and an Absolute Magnitude (H) of 22.0 (about 150 mt in diameter) or less are considered PHAs.

    Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance is a method for calculating the minimum distance between two almost overlapping elliptical orbits.

    The Astronomical Unit (AU) is the distance between the Earth and the Sun and is roughly 150 million km.

    The absolute magnitude is a measure of the star's luminosity i.e. the total amount of energy radiated by the star every second.

    Chances of hitting the earth and related Concerns:
    According to NASA, the objects with large size pose a great risk to Earth due to the level of devastation and the impact they can cause.

    Less than half of the estimated 25,000 NEOs that are 140 metres or larger in size have been found to date.

    NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program finds, tracks and characterises over 90% of the predicted number of NEOs that are 140 metre or larger in size.

    However, no asteroid larger than 140 metre has a “significant” chance of hitting the Earth for the next 100 years.



  • Magnetocaloric Material for Cancer Treatment
    A rare-earth-based magnetocaloric material that can be effectively used for cancer treatment has been developed by the Scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), an autonomous R&D Centre of Department of Science and Technology (DST).

    The magnetocaloric materials developed by ARCI are being tested at SreeChitraTirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology (SCTIMST).

    BACKGROUND:
    Magnetocaloric effect (MCE) is a phenomenon where the application and removal of a magnetic field causes certain materials to get warmer and cooler, respectively. This effect normally occurs near its Curie temperature (Curie point. Curie point, also called Curie Temperature, temperature at which certain magnetic materials undergo a sharp change in their magnetic properties.) where the application of field makes the material to warm up and cools up when the field is removed.

    Magnetocaloric effect is utilized in magnetic refrigeration, which is an environmentally friendly technology to obtain cooling efficiency nearly 60 % compared to the conventional gas-compression refrigerators (40 %). However high magnetic fields of above 2 T are required.

    Magnetocaloric Materials are certain materials in which application and removal of a magnetic field causes the materials to become warmer or cooler.



  • Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma
    An artificial intelligence (AI) based algorithms as an aid to rapid diagnosis and prediction of oral squamous cell carcinoma has been developed by the scientists.

    The work has been done by the scientists at the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), Guwahati, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Govt of India.

    BACKGROUND:
    The study was conducted applying two approaches through the application of transfer learning using a pre-trained deep convolutional neural network (CNN).

    Convolutional networks were inspired by biological processes in that the connectivity pattern between neurons resembles the organization of the animal visual cortex.

    Individual cortical neurons respond to stimuli only in a restricted region of the visual field known as the receptive field.

    The receptive fields of different neurons partially overlap such that they cover the entire visual field.

    An indigenous dataset was developed by the scientists through collaborations to make for the unavailability of any benchmark oral cancer dataset for the study.

    Four candidate pre-trained models, namely Alexnet, VGG-16, VGG-19, and Resnet-50, were chosen to find the most suitable model for the classification problem, and a proposed CNN model developed to fit the problem.

    Although the highest classification accuracy of 92.15% was achieved by the Resnet-50 model, the experimental findings highlight that the proposed CNN model outperformed the transfer learning approaches displaying accuracy of 97.5%.



  • ARCI, Mekins develop UVC-based multipurpose disinfection cabinet to contain surface contamination of Coronavirus
    International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) and MEKINS Industries have jointly developed a UVC-based Cabinet. The device will disinfect non-critical hospital items, laboratory wear, and PPEs in the research laboratories to prevent surface contamination of COVID-19.

    Highlights:
    It can also be used to disinfect items exhibited to customers in commercial establishments and several domestic items.

    The invention comes amid the transmission through surface contamination is an unpredictable risk in which common utilities play a key role in spreading the coronavirus.

    The device consists of 4 UVC lamps of 30W on sides and 2 lamps of 15 W on top and bottom.

    It will give a flux sufficient to disinfect articles of various dimensions placed in shelves separated by metal grilled frames to allow sufficient light from all sides.

    For the safety consideration and to avoid direct exposure of UVC light to the user, the lamps switch on only when the door is locked.

    The irradiance intensity is measured at various points within the box to assure sufficient radiation to disinfect all the placed articles within 10 minutes.

    The partition frames in the cabinet are removable so that even bigger objects like lab coats, blazers, suits can be disinfected when required.



  • microRNA
    Recently, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have identified a specific microRNA (miRNA) called ‘miR-155’ that is over-expressed in tongue cancer.

    Key Points
    MicroRNAs:
    These are short non-coding Ribonucleic Acids (RNAs) containing 20–24 nucleotides that participate in virtually all biological pathways in animals.

    They play important roles in many cancers, in carcinogenesis, malignant transformation and metastasis.

    Carcinogenesis: It is the formation of cancer (uncontrolled development of cells), whereby normal cells are transformed into cancer cells. It is also called oncogenesis or tumorigenesis.

    Malignant transformation: It is the process by which cells acquire the properties of cancer. This may occur as a primary process in normal tissue, or secondarily as malignant degeneration of a previously existing benign tumour.

    Metastasis: The spread of cancer cells from the place where they first formed to another part of the body. In metastasis, cancer cells break away from the original (primary) tumour, travel through the blood or lymph system and form a new tumour in other organs or tissues of the body.



  • CSIR-IIIM received IND approval for anti-cancer drug clinical trial
    CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) Jammu received IND approval from the New Drugs Division of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) for a potent anti-cancer, New Chemical Entity (NCE) effective against pancreatic cancer. The approval comes after the successful completion of preclinical development and the Investigational New Drug (IND) submission.

    Highlights:
    The proposed clinical trial will pave the way for CSIR-IIIM to conduct the clinical trial of the important drug candidate IIIM-290 in pancreatic cancer patients.

    It is also aimed to assess the safety, tolerability, and exposure of the compound in humans along with the early efficacy indicators in pancreatic cancer patients.

    The drug IIIM-290 was discovered and developed at the natural-products driven drug discovery program of CSIR-IIIM.

    The drug candidate IIIM-290 showed excellent pharmacokinetics, oral bioavailability and potent anticancer activity in a number of animal xenograft models, with the best activity against the pancreatic cancer model.

    Background:
    Pancreatic cancer, currently, ranks 12th among the most common cancers in the world. But it stands as the 4th leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The cases of pancreatic cancer in India is 0.5 - 2.4 per 100,000 men and 0.2-1.8 per 100,000 women. The disease causes more than a quarter of a million deaths every year. It is considered as one of the untreatable cancer types, because of its very late diagnosis and therefore there is a huge scarcity of drugs for the treatment of this cancer.



  • IIT Mandi researchers develop make high efficiency masks from waste plastic bottles
    Indian Institute of Technology Mandi researchers claims to have developed a technology for making high-efficiency masks using waste pet bottles. The researchers have filed a patent for the waste plastic bottles derived filter membrane technology based on electro spinning.

    Highlights:
    The waste plastic bottles were used to develop a single thin layer of the nano-nonwoven membrane. It provides desirable particle filtration efficiency which is equal to the N95 respirator and a medical mask.

    The waste plastic bottles are dissolved using a combination of solvents and extruded nanofibres from the solution.

    The masks that are made out of the waste plastic bottles have more breathability than commercially available masks. This ultrafine fibre in the mask will allow less resistance in airflow due to a unique phenomenon called 'slip flow' which improves breathability.

    It can also be washed and reused up to 30 times.



  • IIT-BHU researchers develops face mask to annihilate pathogenic microorganisms
    Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-BHU) have developed an anti-microbial five-layered face mask. The face mask was aimed to address a few issues to combat novel coronavirus.

    Disadvantage of common facemask:
    The common face mask that is available in the market currently acts as a filter to stop the entry of microbes to oral and nasal airways but does not have any effect on the microbe stuck to the mask surface. This disadvantage of masks could be dangerous for medical and paramedical staff due to the presence of higher viral or bacterial load on their outer surface.

    Highlight:
    This newly designed face mask can annihilate pathogenic microorganisms that are stuck to its outer surface. It will also limit the spread of secondary infections.

    The new face mask is stacked by different layers of nanometal conjugated with a protonated amine matrix.

    The anti-microbial face mask has 5 layers:
    The first layer of the mask can degrade any type of Ribonucleic acid (RNA).
    The second layer is anti-microbial.
    The third one is for air filtration.
    The fourth and fifth layers are comfortable layers, which will remain close to the nose and mouth.
    Copper and silver are de-transition elements that can degrade coronavirus and all the other members of the SARS virus. The mask is made with a combination of copper, copper oxides, silver, and activated charged silver, which can help degrade RNA.

    The mask has a hydrophobic surface on the outer layer to deflect water droplets containing the viruses.



  • Titan drifts away from Saturn 100 times faster than expected
    A new study stated that Saturn's largest moon Titan is now expanding from Saturn at a rate 100 times faster than scientists had previously predicted. This speed of drifting is about 4 inches every year.

    Highlights:
    Titan was born close to the planet. But over the course of 4.5 billion years, Titan has migrated out to where it orbits currently, approximately 746,000 miles (1.2 million km) away from the planet.

    The reason for the moon to drift away from their host planets is because as the moon's orbit, their gravitational pull on the planet creates a temporary bulge on the planet. This will increase the energy exerted by the planet on its moon.

    Saturn has a total of 82 moons and the planet has the biggest moon 'Titan'.



  • DIAT develops nano-technology based disinfectant spray to combat COVID-19
    The Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT), Pune has developed a nano-technology based disinfectant spray to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The formulation has been named Ananya.

    Ananya:
    Ananya disinfectant spray is effective in disinfecting all types of surfaces.

    The spray can be used on masks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), hospital linens, and other likely contaminated surfaces like medical instruments, elevator buttons, doorknobs, corridors, and rooms.

    The material is developed by synthesizing silver nanoparticles and a commercially available drug, Ampicillin.

    Ananya has been tested by the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Infrared Spectroscopy methods.

    The silver nano-particles has the ability to neutralize the outer protein and can rupture the membrane of the virus, thereby making it ineffective.

    The water-based spray will be effective for more than 24 hours.

    The spray adheres very effectively to fabric, plastic and metallic objects, and its toxicity to humans is negligible.



  • Nature Index 2020: Index of Scientific Research
    Recently, a journal of science i.e. the Nature Research, has released the Nature Index 2020.

    The Nature Index provides a database of high-quality research output and collaboration at the institutional, national and regional level of institutions from different countries.

    Key Points
    The top three countries in the index are US, China and Germany respectively.

    Criteria for the Ranking

    Sectors: Academic and Corporate.

    Subjects: Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences.

    Journal Group: Nature and Science.

    The overall ranking of India is 12th in the index.

    Top 3 Ranking of Institutions from india:

    Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

    Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc)

    Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)



  • Kerala Startup partners with SCTIMST to launch IoT based used mask disposal smart bin and UV light-based disinfection device
    Cochin-based startup VST Mobility Solutions has launched an automated mask disposal machine, named BIN-19, as part of efforts to develop products helping to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The disposal device developed using Chitra UV based face mask disposal bin technology from the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) was formally launched.

    VST Mobility Solutions also launched UV SPOT, a UV light-based multipurpose disinfector, to combat the COVID-19.

    BIN-19:
    The Internet of Things (IoT)-based BIN-19 can be used to collect and disinfect Used Face-Mask.

    The device has been successfully tested under microbiological tests by SreeChitra Lab.

    The used masks will be dropped inside a container of the bin will be first disinfected by a process.

    The disinfected masks which are dropped in the BIN-19 will be transferred to another container inside the Bin.

    The person dropping the mask can sanitize their hands with the help of the automatic sanitizer dispenser attached to the Bin-19.

    The user does not need to touch/operate any switches in the Bin. The functions of the BIN-19 are automated in the hands-free equipment for the safety of users and health workers.

    The IoT Features of BIN-19 are:
    1. Auto Sanitizer Dispenser
    2. Mobile Application to navigate/find Bin-19
    3. Web Portal for Status Alerts
    4. Power ON/OFF alerts
    5. Box open alerts



  • RT-nPCR Test
    Researchers at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have developed a new test to detect novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) named ‘Reverse Transcription nested Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-nPCR) test.

    CCMB, one of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories, is situated in Hyderabad (Telangana).

    Key Points
    It does not depend on RT-qPCR (testing approved by the ICMR) but uses standard RT-PCR as part of an endpoint assay (i.e. to measure biochemical activity of a sample).

    It has been developed on a low-cost and low-tech model.

    This new test is awaiting approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

    RT-qPCR Test:
    The ICMR has recommended only Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR) test for novel coronavirus testing.

    PCR is an enzymatic reaction used to amplify DeoxyRibonucleic Acid (DNA).

    Unlike conventional PCR, which relies on end point analysis, qPCR enables the analyst to monitor DNA amplification in real time, as the reaction proceeds.This allows quantification of DNA.

    However, coronavirus is made up of Ribonucleic Acid (RNA). Therefore to detect coronavirus, RNA is converted into DNA using a technique called Reverse Transcription (RT).

    RT-qPCRvs RT-nPCR:
    In RT-qPCR, the viral RNA is quantified, whereas in RT-nPCR, the viral RNA that nests is studied.

    RT-qPCR is costly, takes longer, needs special apparatus and can be performed only in a lab with sophisticated equipment. It requires a real time thermal cycler, which is an expensive instrument.

    RT-nPCR is economical, can be tested on a large scale, does not require special apparatus and can be done in a lab with basic equipment. It needs a simple PCR machine.

    Further, the CCMB scientists found a high percentage of false negative cases while comparing RT-qPCR with the new test.

    The RT-nPCR test was able to identify 90% of the detected samples as positive by RT-qPCR. It also detected 13% samples as positive among samples that were negative by the standard RT-qPCR test (likely false negatives).



  • Most Heat Resistant Material ever created
    A ceramic material with the highest melting point among currently known compounds has been developed by group of scientists from National University of Science and Technology “MISiS”.

    The National University of Science and Technology “MISiS” is Russia’s primary technological university in the field of steel-making and metallurgy.

    Key Details about the newly developed most Heat-Resistant Material
    The newly developed ceramic material is the one with the highest melting point among all the known compounds.

    Due to the unique combination of physical, mechanical and thermal properties, the material is promising for use in the most heat-loaded components of aircraft, such as nose fairings, jet engines and sharp front edges of wings operating at temperatures above 2000 degrees C.

    How did they achieved this feat?
    During the recent developments, the goal of the scientists was to create a material with the highest melting point and high mechanical properties.

    While experimenting, the scientists chose triple hafnium-carbon-nitrogen system, hafnium carbonitride (Hf-C-N) (it was previously predicted that hafnium carbonitride would have a high thermal conductivity and resistance to oxidation, as well as the highest melting point among all known compounds (approximately 4200 degrees C)).

    At the moment, the specific melting point of the new material is above 4000 degrees C, and could not be determined precisely in the laboratory.

    In the future, it has been planned by the team to conduct experiments on measuring the melting temperature by high-temperature pyrometry using a laser or electric resistance.

    What are the various applications of such a material?
    Many leading space agencies like NASA, ESA, as well as agencies of Japan, China and India are actively developing reusable spaceplanes, which will significantly reduce the cost of delivering people and cargo to orbit, as well as reduce the time intervals between flights.

    However, when exiting the atmosphere and re-entering it, on the surface of the wings of the spaceplane, temperatures of about 2000 degrees C can be observed, reaching 4000 degrees C at the very edge.

    Therefore, when it comes to such aircraft, there is a question associated with the creation and development of new materials that can work at such high temperatures. The newly formed material, therefore, could be a possible solution to this problem.



  • SpaceX Crew Dragon
    Recently, a spacecraft, Crew Dragon, built by SpaceX has successfully carried astronauts of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the International Space Station.

    SpaceX became the first private company to launch people (human spaceflight) into orbit, a feat achieved by the US, Russia & China.

    Key Points
    Crew Dragon:
    It is a part of the Dragon 2, a class of reusable spacecraft developed and manufactured by American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX.

    It is the fifth class of US spacecraft to take human beings into orbit, after the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.

    The rocket, named Falcon 9, which carried the spaceship into the orbit, was also built by SpaceX.

    It is done under the Demo-2 Mission of NASA and SpaceX.

    Significance of Private Participation:
    The landing by SpaceX flight is a culmination of more than decade-long efforts to enable private players to build and operate what essentially is a commercial taxi-service to space, and allow NASA to concentrate on deep space exploration, and work more vigorously towards taking humans to the moon, and Mars.

    The United States now plans to return to the Moon in 2024 under the Artemis mission, establishing a launching pad to Mars by 2030.

    India and Private Space Companies:
    While there are many private companies operating in the space sector in the United States, their contribution is not much significant in India.

    Most of them collaborate with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in building and fabricating the components that go into making rockets and satellites.

    However, launch services, including the building of rockets or launch vehicles are still a monopoly of government space agency, i.e. ISRO.




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