Archives  >  2019  >  July  >  15th

Explorers On The Moon

1. What’s the story?

India was was well on its way to make lunar history of its own, but things were called off at the last moment due to a technical snag. On 15th July, Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota was to bear testimony to the launch of Chandrayaan 2, India’s ambitious probe that’s headed for the moon. The revised launch date is now ten days away. If everything goes according to plan this time, the lander, (named Vikram after India’s space programme pioneer Vikram Sarabhai), is expected to reach the lunar South Pole in approximately 50 days after launch. Apart from Vikram, this mission is also expected to land Pragyan, our rover, that will prowl the surface of the moon and send invaluable data back to the subcontinent.

Tell me more.
India had launched Chandrayaan 1, its first lunar mission, back in 2008. (Quick recap: Chandrayaan 1 was the first to find traces of water vapour in the lunar atmosphere.) However, that probe was designed to crash land on the moon. With Chandrayaan 2, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is trying to be much more ambitious. This INR 978-crore mission is expected to attempt a soft landing on the moon, with eventual deployment of Pragyan. If it succeeds, India will be the fourth country to have successfully pulled off this extraordinary feat – the other three being USA, Russia, and China. (Quick recap: Earlier this year, a similar such attempt by an Israeli spacecraft was unsuccessful due to technical glitches.)

Parts of the lunar South Pole remain in permanent shade due to the tilt of the moon’s axis. Their extremely low temperatures could have permanently frozen ancient gas and liquid compounds – something that Pragyan aims to verify.

So, what now?
According to ISRO’s official website, “The moon is the closest cosmic body at which space discovery can be attempted and documented. It is also a promising testbed to demonstrate the technologies required for deep-space missions. Chandrayaan-2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists.” Considering that this is ISRO’s first attempt at landing on a terrestrial object, scientists are, naturally, on tenterhooks. Not only that, this is also the first such mission to have two women at its helm – Ritu Karidhal (Director of the Mission) and M Vanitha (Project Director). *Fingers crossed for its success in ten days, y’all.*

2. What else should I be looking at?

The state of Bihar, that’s what. Ceaseless rains over the last few days have caused more than five districts to be ravaged, displacing more than 15 lakh people and killing at least four. Darbhanga, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, and Madhubani are some of the worst affected regions. Though hundreds of relief camps have been opened, the supply is still woefully short of demand. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar conducted an aerial survey of the flood-hit regions on Sunday. (Meanwhile, here is the plight of a newlywed couple in the state, who presumably don’t have aerial modes of transport.)

3. What more?

Another state, another flood. The Army was called in to assist Assam deal with its worsening flood situation last Friday. The toll, till date, stands at ten, with more than eight lakh people displaced. 75% of the Kaziranga National Park is currently under water, while more than 90 disaster relief camps remain submerged. According to authorities, heavy erosion, landslides, and the overflowing of Brahmaputra are some of the reasons behind this year’s devastating floods. Home Minister Amit Shah called a high-level meeting on Saturday to monitor the situation and issue disaster management instructions.

4. Anything else?

England won a nerve-wracking match last night, leading to its historic first-ever Cricket World Cup win. (Quick recap: Both England and New Zealand made 241 runs in their allotted 50 overs. The match then went into the super over, where both the teams scored 15 runs. However, England was finally declared the winner due to its higher number of boundaries.)

5. Is that all?

Six Things has spoken about the Hong Kong protests before. (Quick recap: Citizens in Hong Kong have been protesting for weeks against a controversial extradition bill. Critics of the bill say that it might make it easier for China to interfere in Hong Kong’s “internal” matters.) Watch now as China sets about creating an alternate reality about these protests, all in real time.

6. Before you leave …

Take a look at how Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in a nail-biting, five-set, almost five-hour-long match. He survived two championship points and took home the Wimbledon in the end. It came down to the last few minutes, guys!

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