Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chandrayaan Mission a Complete Success

The discovery of water on the moon could pave the way for us to build a rocket refueling station up there. For man to be able to make sustainable, affordable voyages in the solar system, we need a way to re-fuel off the planet.

Now, with the discovery of hydrogen and oxygen molecules - the components of water - on our neighbouring body, we may now have a staging post to explore the other planets.

With hydrogen and oxygen both abundant on the moon's surface, man may be able to have all the water and rocket fuel needed for space exploration

A ship taking off from the Earth expends so much fuel escaping the planet's gravitational fuel that there is little to spare for inter-planetary exploration. But a staging post on the moon could allow a ship to re-fuel with relative ease, and could help speed up the exploration of other planets, such as Mars, where water has also been detected within the last few weeks.

The discovery of water on the moon was made by the Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan-1. Scientists were looking for a signature of water in the craters near the poles, but were surprised to find evidence of water on the sunlit areas of the Moon instead.

Experts believe the water is trapped in the Moon's surface dirt and in theory can be extracted in large quantities to support life.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Microsoft Courier tablet runs Windows 7, coming 2010

Microsoft's Courier booklet is reportedly currently running on top of Windows 7 (remember the emphasis Redmond put on Windows Touch during the operating system's development), much like how the Microsoft Surface runs on top of Windows Vista, according to ZDNet. On the flip side, however, you won't be able to install Windows 7 apps on the device.

Furthermore, the rumor goes on to say that Microsoft will actually be making the booklet hardware, much like it does for its Zune portable media players and its Xbox gaming consoles. Finally, the device is currently slated for a "mid-2010" release (translation: don't expect it before Christmas 2010), but it's still not in the commercialization pipeline. ZDNet's tipster explained that Courier builds on Microsoft Office OneNote, used especially on current tablet PCs: "The concept started as a software idea on how one would really build OneNote from scratch if you could for the Tablet form factor. That then morphed into building a tablet."

Gizmodo has more details on Courier. Apparently the device is being developed around the term "infinite journal," a continuous (and searchable—again, think OneNote) document that can be used to collect together snippets of text, diagrams, webpages, contacts, and so on. The journal can be published in whole or in part online, it seems, in either a native Courier format, as a PowerPoint presentation, or as a PDF. There's also a library where things like subscriptions, notebooks, and apps, can be stored.

Multitouch finger gestures are used to navigate between pages, move images, and drag contacts/appointments around, but for data entry, handwritten text is the name of the game. Gizmodo also posted a video, produced by the same firm that collaborated with Microsoft's Pioneer Studios on the first leaked video, which further shows how Microsoft thinks we'll use Courier. The video makes us think a later iteration is being shown, compared to last time.

Microsoft is still refusing to comment on anything Courier-related since as far as the software giant is concerned, it's still all "rumors and speculation." Speculation around pricing continues to be all over the place.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A123 Systems goes public with a splash

A123 Systems made its initial public offering Thursday despite years of failing to turn a profit. Its shares soared more than 50 percent. The company already has huge backers in the Department of Energy and Chrysler, and the clamor for shares demonstrates how much pressure there is to find the next power source for cars, one that drastically cuts emissions.

Watertown, Mass.-based A123 Systems, founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists, has a contract to build lithium-ion batteries for Chrysler, but has not produced a car battery that is market ready.In August, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $2.4 billion in federal grants to develop next-generation electric vehicles and batteries. A123 Systems was the second biggest recipient with $249 million.

The company lost more than $40 million in the first half of this year, but that has not diminished the push to create new batteries that would cut down on greenhouse causing gasses.The lithium-ion battery would be the heart of any electric car. Yet there are significant technological barriers, one of them being cost. A single battery can go for $40,000.

The batteries, which power electronics and mobile phones, have also been the subject of mass recalls because of overheating.David Vieau, A123 Systems president and chief executive, said the company's batteries use a technology licensed out of MIT that provides more power, lasts longer and operates more safely than other designs.

And the batteries can be shaped and linked to fit into different types and models of vehicles. "Height and clearance, for example, on a Jeep, is quite a different problem then if you're in a two-seat sports car or if you have a minivan," Vieau said.

The nickel-metal hydride batteries used now in cars like the Toyota Prius must still be paired with a combustion engine. Hydride batteries can give you short bursts of power. A123 is looking to tap into a global lithium-ion battery market expected to skyrocket from $31.9 million this year to $21.8 billion by 2015 and $74.1 billion by 2020, according to business consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Signs of Water Are Found on the Moon

There appears to be, to the surprise of planetary scientists, water, water everywhere on the Moon, although how many drops future astronauts might be able to drink is not clear.

Data from three spacecraft indicate the widespread presence of water or hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom as opposed to the two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms that make up a water molecule. The discoveries are being published Thursday on the Web site of the journal Science.

“It’s so startling because it’s so pervasive,” said Lawrence A. Taylor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, a co-author of one of the papers that analyzed data from a National Aeronautics and Space Administration instrument aboard India’s Chandrayyan-1 satellite. “It’s like somebody painted the globe.”

For decades, the Moon has been regarded as a completely dry place. The dark side is more than ice cold, but when it passes into sunlight, any ice should have long ago been baked away. The possible exceptions are permanently shadowed craters near the Moon’s poles, and data announced this month by NASA verified the presence of hydrogen in those areas, which would most likely be in the form of water.

If water is somehow more widespread, that could make future settlement of the Moon easier, especially if significant water could be extracted just by heating the soil. Oxygen would also be a key component for breathable air for astronauts, and hydrogen and oxygen can also be used for rocket fuel or power generation.

Samples of lunar soil brought back from NASA’s Apollo missions about four decades ago actually did show signs of water, but most scientists working with the samples, including Dr. Taylor, dismissed the readings as contamination from humid Houston air that seeped in before the rocks were analyzed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“I was one of the ones back in the Apollo days that was firmly against lunar water,” Dr. Taylor said. Now he is convinced he was wrong. “I’ve eaten my shorts,” he said. The Chandrayyan-1 data looked at sunlight reflected off the Moon’s surface and found a dip at a wavelength where water and hydroxyl absorb infrared light. Dr. Taylor estimated the concentration at about one quart of water per cubic yard of lunar soil and rock.

Meanwhile, Roger N. Clark of the United States Geological Survey analyzed decade-old data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft when it passed the Moon en route to Saturn. He, too, found signs of water or hydroxyl, mostly at the poles, but also at lower latitudes.

Scientists working with the Deep Impact spacecraft, which later studied the Comet Tempel 1, also found infrared absorption at the water and hydroxyl wavelengths. More interesting, the amount of absorption — and thus the quantity of water — varied over time.

That suggests the water is being created when protons from the solar wind slam into the lunar surface. The collisions may free oxygen atoms in the minerals and allow them to recombine with protons and electrons to form water.

Lori M. Feaga, a research scientist at the University of Maryland who is a member of the team that analyzed the Deep Impact data, said this process would work only to about one millimeter into the lunar surface. If correct, that would not give future astronauts much to drink.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ISROs PSLV Successfully launches RISAT-2

On April 20th the ISRO has informed everyone in a press release published at its website that PSLV Successfully launches RISAT-2 and ANUSAT Satellites. It is considered as the fourteenth consecutive success for PSLV. In its previous mission it has launched Chandrayan-1 . With this successful launch, the usefulness and the reliability of PSLV has been proved again.This was the fifteenth mission carried out from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota, ISROs PSLV-C12 placed two satellites - RISAT-2 and ANUSAT - in the desired orbit in a very efficient way.

RISAT-2 is a Radar Imaging Satellite with the capability to take images of the earth during day and night as well as cloudy conditions. At the time of launch, RISAT-2 weighed about 300 kg and was realised by ISRO in association with Israel Aerospace Industries. RISAT-2 was placed in an orbit of 550 km height with an inclination of 41 deg to the equator and an orbital period of about 90 minutes. Radar Imaging Satellite will enhance ISROs potentiality for earth observation, especially during floods, cyclones, landslides and in disaster management in a more effective way.

According to the information revealed on ISRO website “The 44 metre tall PSLV-C12 weighing 230 ton was launched from the Second Launch Pad (SLP) at SDSC SHAR in the Core Alone configuration without the use of six solid strap-ons. In this mission, in addition to RISAT-2, PSLV also carried A 40 kg micro satellite named ANUSAT, built by Anna University, Chennai. ANUSAT is the first experimental communication satellite built by an Indian University under the overall guidance of ISRO and will demonstrate the technologies related to message store and forward operations.”

Integration of PSLV for the C12 flight embarked on the Second Launch Pad in SDSC, SHAR on February 26, 2009. Following this, the first, second, third and fourth stages of the vehicle along with the satellites were fully integrated. After a 48 hour countdown, the vehicle and the satellites successfully underwent various levels of functional checks at the launch centre.In this flight, PSLV carried the indigenously developed Advanced Mission Computers and Advanced Telemetry System, which guided the vehicle from lift-off till the injection of the two satellites in the desired orbit.

The information on website also revealed that “PSLV-C12 lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at 6:45 am IST (0115 UT) today with the ignition of its first stage. The important flight events included the separation of the first stage, ignition of the second stage, separation of the payload fairing at about 115 km altitude after the vehicle had cleared the dense atmosphere, second stage separation, third stage ignition, third stage separation, fourth stage ignition and fourth stage cut-off.”

The main payload, RISAT-2, was the first satellite to be separated in orbit at 1100 seconds after lift-off at an altitude of 550 km. About 60 seconds later, ANUSAT was separated.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Satellites "On Track" With Hurricane Research

This graphic (not to scale) depicts the satellites that make up the Afternoon Constellation -- The “A-Train." Note also that CALIPSO trails CloudSat by only 17.5 seconds to allow for synergy between Aqua, CloudSat, and CALIPSO. Aura, originally positioned 15 minutes behind Aqua, was relocated in May 2008 to enable better coincidence between its Microwave Limb Sounder instrument and CloudSat’s radar instrument.

The drawing also depicts the 2 newest members to be added to the A-Train: Glory, a NASA Goddard mission scheduled for launch next year, and GCOM-W1, a JAXA mission scheduled for launch in 2011. Credit: Ed Hanka NASA has several satellites that orbit the Earth one behind the other on the same track. They're called the "A-Train" and one of the things they study is tropical cyclones. There are also other satellites outside the A-Train that are used to study different aspects of tropical cyclones. The satellites that form the A-Train provide unique information about tropical cyclones, the collective term for tropical depressions, tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons.

"Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are both a curse and a blessing for highly populated tropical and subtropical nations, bringing both terrible destruction and life-sustaining rainfall each year," said Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Many scientists have hypothesized that in the future our warming climate will change hurricane-induced rainfall patterns, perhaps increasing the destructive power of these storms. NASA, NOAA and university scientists are mining the wealth of scientific information from A-Train instruments to improve our understanding of current and future hurricanes. These data will help officials plan for better coastal protection and the most effective public policy."

The A-Train satellite formation currently consists of five satellites flying in close proximity: Aqua, CloudSat, CALIPSO, PARASOL and Aura.

Each satellite in the A-Train crosses the equator within a few minutes of each another at around 1:30 p.m. local time. By combining the different sets of nearly simultaneous observations, scientists are able to gain a better understanding of important parameters related to climate change. The two primary satellites in the A-Train that contribute to hurricane research are Aqua and CloudSat. The other satellites provide important information about clouds and aerosols that assist with hurricane research.

So why put all of these different satellites in a "train"? By combining the satellites and their data, scientists are able to gain a better understanding of important parameters related to the behavior of hurricanes, in addition to climate change information. The A-Train formation allows for simultaneous coordinated measurements. Data fr

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Solar flares shine light on moon’s minerals

In its 10-month orbit around the moon, Chandrayaan-1’s X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS) has detected titanium, confirmed the presence of calcium, and gathered the most accurate measurements yet of magnesium, aluminium and iron on the lunar surface.

This was made possible by 30 solar flares that acted like “flash bulbs” illuminating the surface, according to a statement by the European Planetary Network. The results were presented on Friday by Manuel Grande, C1XS Principal Investigator, at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Germany.

Previous lunar probes detected some of these minerals on the lunar surface, but none as accurately as the C1XS X-ray spectrometer, J.N. Goswami, director of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, and principal scientist for Chandrayaan-1, told The Hindu.

The miniature C1XS instrument investigated the lunar surface using an effect whereby X-ray illumination from the sun causes rocks to fluoresce, emitting light at a different wavelength. This re-emitted light contains spectral peaks that are characteristic of elements contained in the rock, revealing its composition.

While C1XS detected magnesium, aluminium and silicon during normal conditions, the instrument could detect calcium, iron, titanium, sodium and potassium in key areas in the southern hemisphere and on the far side of the Moon during the solar flares, the statement said.
Better resolution

It added that the spectral resolution of 50 km was much better than previous missions.

“The C1XS team will be analysing the data collected during the Chandrayaan-1 mission over the next few months, and the results will help us further our knowledge of the Moon and planetary formation,” Prof. Grande was quoted as saying. “We were able to separate clear peaks for each of the target elements, allowing us not only to identify where they are present but give an accurate estimate for how much is there,

Friday, September 18, 2009

US missile defense shift a betrayal

Poland — Poles and Czechs voiced deep concern Friday at President Barack Obama's decision to scrap a Bush-era missile defense shield planned for their countries.
"Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back," the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Obama's new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous "gray zone" between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere.

Recent events have rattled nerves throughout central and eastern Europe, a region controlled by Moscow during the Cold War, including the war last summer between Russia and Georgia and ongoing efforts by Russia to regain influence in Ukraine. A Russian cutoff of gas to Ukraine last winter left many Europeans without heat.

The Bush administration's missile defense plan would have been "a major step in preventing various disturbing trends in our region of the world," Kaczynski said in a guest editorial in Fakt that also was carried on his presidential Web site. Neighboring Lithuania, a small Baltic nation that broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991 and is now a NATO member, also expressed regret over Obama's decision.

Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene said that the shield would have increased security for Lithuania and she hoped missile defense would not be excluded from future talks on NATO security. "This NATO region cannot be an exception and its defense is not less important compared with others," she said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he still sees a chance for Poles and Czechs to participate in the redesigned missile defense system. But that did not appear to calm nerves in Warsaw or Prague.

Kaczynski expressed hopes that the U.S. will now offer Poland other forms of "strategic partnership." Later Friday, U.S. ambassador Victor Ashe stressed that "the United States counts Poland among its closest allies and friends."

"Consultations on the way forward for missile defense will continue between our two governments," Ashe said in a statement. "The role Poland would play in the new, phased, adapted approach is as crucial now as in the past."

In Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said he made two concrete proposals to U.S. officials on Thursday in hopes of keeping the U.S.-Czech alliance strong: for the U.S. to establish a branch of West Point for NATO members in Central Europe and to "send a Czech scientist on the U.S. space shuttle to the international space station."

An editorial in Hospodarske Novine, a respected pro-business Czech newspaper, said: "an ally we rely on has betrayed us, and exchanged us for its own, better relations with Russia, of which we are rightly afraid." The move has raised fears in the two nations they are being marginalized by Washington even as a resurgent Russia leaves them longing for added American protection.

The Bush administration always said that the planned system — with a radar near Prague and interceptors in northern Poland — was meant as defense against Iran. But Poles and Czechs saw it as protection against Russia, and Moscow too considered a military installation in its backyard to be a threat.

"No Radar. Russia won," the largest Czech daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes, declared in a front-page headline. Obama said the old plan was scrapped in part because the U.S. has concluded that Iran is less focused on developing the kind of long-range missiles for which the system was originally developed, making the building of an expensive new shield unnecessary.

The replacement system is to link smaller radar systems with a network of sensors and missiles that could be deployed at sea or on land. Some of the weaponry and sensors are ready now, and the rest would be developed over the next 10 years. The Pentagon contemplates a system of perhaps 40 missiles by 2015, at two or three sites across Europe.

Associated Press writers Karel Janicek in Prague and Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, contributed to this report.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Space shuttle lands in California after detour

Space shuttle Discovery and its seven astronauts took a cross-country detour and landed safely in California after stormy weather prevented them from returning home to Florida for the second day in a row.

Discovery swooped through the sky and touched down at Edwards Air Force Base an hour before sunset, ending its delivery trip to the international space station.

"Welcome home, Discovery," Mission Control radioed. "Congratulations on an extremely successful mission."
Stormy weather made it too risky to bring Discovery back to its home port on Thursday, and conditions were even worse on Friday. So flight director Richard Jones opted for the sunny skies of the Mojave Desert.

NASA prefers Florida landings because the cross-country ferry trip, which involves transporting the shuttle atop a modified jumbo jet, costs USD 1.7 million and takes more than a week. Thunderstorms also delayed the beginning of Discovery's mission. The shuttle blasted off Aug 28 and logged 5.7 million miles.

Discovery and its crew, led by commander Rick Sturckow, dropped off tons of supplies and equipment, including a USD 5 million treadmill named after Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

World Ozone Day is being celebrated today

The International Day for the preservation of Ozone Layer is being celebrated on Wednesday since this day focuses on children's health as children suffer most from the effects of ozone depletion and are most vulnerable to the harmful exposure of the ultraviolet radiation by Sun rays.

16th September has been celebrated as the International Day for the preservation of the Ozone Layer since the Montreal Protocol was signed on this day in 1987 by numerous countries concerned about the depletion of protective ozone layer around the Earth.

The essence of this year's theme - the world uniting around one environmental cause, the protection of the ozone layer is intended to celebrate the fact that the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol are the most widely ratified multilateral environmental agreements to date.

FD High School in Juhapura is celebrating this day with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has sent more than 100 kits for their celebration while the Pune Environment Committee has sent more than 200 kits containing information, posters and games to spread awareness of the ozone layer.

These kits have been distributed amongst the students.

"The World Ozone Day celebration reiterates our commitment and offers us an opportunity to focus attention on the protection of the ozone layer. Each of us can help to prevent further damage to this precious shield given to us by nature," said Gena M Hussain, principal, FD High School.

The Montreal Protocol has led to a drastic reduction in the release of ozone-depleting substances globally.

The ozone acts as an atmospheric shield protecting all forms of life on Earth from the danger of excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

India ratified the Montreal Protocol on 17th September, 1992.

"As the ozone layer continuously depletes over time, the intensity of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth will continue to increase, until the ozone layer is stabilised," said a senior official of the Gujarat Science City.

At the celebration at FD High School, a unique and informative game has been designed for the children, which teaches them the dangers of neglecting the ozone layer through a game of snakes and ladders that has emerged as a huge hit among the youngsters.

"Children should be taught from a young age about such issues and only then can they realise the importance of the ozone layer and other nature's gifts," said Yusuf Khatombra, the eco-club coordinator at FD High School.

Children suffer the most from the effects of ozone depletion, as they are most vulnerable to harmful exposure of the ultraviolet radiation in the sun's rays

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

India's IT Industry

Lauding India's efforts to reach the top rung in Information technology, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has said its success has proved the mettle of Indian talent, ingenuity and hard work.

She was speaking after inaugurating the Infosys technology campus in Mysore on Tuesday.

The Global Education centre of the company has been set up at a cost of 800 crore rupees.

Mrs Gandhi complimented Infosys for making largest single building as well as the largest training complex in Asia.

She also described her visit to Infosys campus as a pleasant detour from her political life.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stop putting ISRO down, lunar mission a "fantastic success":

Indian media's traditional carping ways with respect to any national success story in critical or strategic areas came in for lambasting from an unusual source, with a European project scientist with the Chandrayaan-1 mission suggesting that the media should take onboard the achievement that underlies the mission rather than questioning its early termination.

Ina email-interview with a news agency, Detlef Koschny, European Chandrayaan-1 project scientist, said though the space craft's life was cut short, the mission was a "fantastic success."

India's lunar mission had carried three scientific payloads from the European Space Agency (ESA).

According to Koschny, the European teams were "much excited" about the results they achieved. "I think (the) Indian press should stop trying to put ISRO down. You should rather acknowledge the fantastic achievements your space agency did," he said, listing many of the achievements.

"You sent a spacecraft to the moon and entered a low lunar orbit -- a very high challenge which is already a fantastic success," Koschny said.

"Secondly, all scientific instruments were commissioned and worked flawlessly. The data came down, over a distance of about 400,000 km and it was put together into images, atomic counts etc."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years on, Obama to lead 9/11 tributes

President Barack Obama will lead tributes to the nearly 3,000 people killed on 11th September 2001 on the eighth anniversary of the devastating attacks on Friday.

Events were re-scheduled across the United States to remember the day when Americans watched in horror as four airliners hijacked by Al-Qaeda were flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Defense Department headquarters near Washington and a Pennsylvania field.

Obama will pay tribute to the victims in a speech at the Pentagon, then meet relatives of those killed in the attacks. Vice President Joseph Biden will attend commemorative events in New York, the White House said.

The day of tributes begins in New York, where two jet airliners slammed into the Twin Towers, killing 2,752 people and prompting President George W Bush to declare a "war on terror". At the site where the towers once stood, relatives of those killed will join volunteers from across New York city to read the names of the victims.

The public reading, now an annual ritual, will be paused four times to mark the moments when American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 hit the buildings, and when the two towers collapsed. At nightfall, two beams of light will shoot skyward from the site.

Obama is to lead the tributes in Arlington, Virginia, where a third hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon building. The president, accompanied by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, is to observe a moment of silence, deliver a speech and lay a wreath.

He will then meet with relatives of the victims and tour a memorial to the 184 people killed on the ground and aboard Flight 77. The Pentagon memorial is the only major official monument to the victims of the 11th September attacks, with plans for similar sites in New York and Pennsylvania held up in part by financial and legal wrangling.

At the World Trade Center site, progress has been slow on the foundation of "Freedom Tower" -- part of a planned complex of five new skyscrapers, with a park and memorial in the middle.

With plans hampered by the financial crisis and the real estate downturn, the site just looks like a large hole, although work on foundations of several key elements is underway and the frame for the future tower is rising

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Space Station Information

I watched the space station, the International Space Station, fly over last Friday night. It was visible for five minutes, passing almost directly overhead. The shuttle was still docked, and it was brilliant against the dark sky. The first satellite I ever tried to see was Echo, in the very early sixties, a mere speck in the sky as I held my dad's hand. Nearly 50 years later, at this instant, six humans are orbiting every 90 minutes or so, conducting research. Their mere presence in that environment is an inspiring study.

A recent documentary described the ongoing startup of the "super conducting super collider" in France. It's a project about 30 miles in circumference and 30 years in development. It has had cost growth, construction and technical problems. It's also unique, and on the verge of revolutionary research in sub-atomic particle physics. No one could truly postulate a benefit-cost ratio on the project at inception; it probably can't accurately be done now. The United States cancelled its plan for a larger, more capable collider in the mid 1980's, before even clearing the construction site. The payback couldn't be determined. We still won't know what we don't know.

Thirty years ago, in my card-punching Fortran class, it was believed that mid-sized engineering firms could one day afford room-sized computing systems. This blog is being thumbed on a "BlackBerry." In 1900, who envisioned an electronic chip-dependent world in a century, molecular biology, nano-technology, or footprints on the moon?

We are approaching an interesting hurdle in "the race for discovery." The Space Shuttle Program and ISS assembly are nearing completion. The station is fully tended, able to be devoted to science for its remaining life. How long, and how valuable will that life be? What's the next human step off the planet? What technology is required to get us there, and how will it enrich life here? Trite, but true, these are extremely tough choices among many national issues.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hubble Opens New Eyes on the Universe

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, ready to uncover new worlds, peer ever deeper into space, and even map the invisible backbone of the universe.

The first snapshots from the refurbished Hubble showcase the 19-year-old telescope's new vision. Topping the list of exciting new views are colorful multi-wavelength pictures of far- flung galaxies, a densely packed star cluster, an eerie "pillar of creation," and a "butterfly" nebula.

With the release of these images, astronomers have declared Hubble a fully rejuvenated observatory. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., unveiled the images at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9, 2009.

With its new imaging camera, Hubble can view galaxies, star clusters, and other objects across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. A new spectrograph slices across billions of light-years to map the filamentary structure of the universe and trace the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life.

The telescope's new instruments also are more sensitive to light and can observe in ways that are significantly more efficient and require less observing time than previous generations of Hubble instruments.

NASA astronauts installed the new instruments during the space shuttle servicing mission in May 2009. Besides adding the instruments, the astronauts also completed a dizzying list of other chores that included performing unprecedented repairs on two other science instruments.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Jet Airways sacks 3 more pilots, govt explores invoking ESMA

The entire Jet Airways service network was badly crippled on Tuesday with the cancellation of almost 200 flights as 40 per cent of its pilots went on mass sick leave and the management of the private carrier hit back by sacking three more agitators.

As the pilots body National Aviators Guild (NAG) decided to continue their agitation, the Bombay High Court passed a restraining order against the agitation while the government began exploring the possibility of invoking ESMA against the striking pilots.

A total of 163 captains (pilots) and 198 first officers or co-pilots reported sick, disrupting flight schedule as almost 200 flights, including 32 international, were cancelled affecting about 15,000 passengers. The agitating pilots represented nearly 40 per cent of the total strength of 760.

Meanwhile, Jet Airways has cancelled 31 domestic and international flights, flying out from various cities on Wednesday, after its 350 pilots went on a mass sick leave in protest against sacking of two pilots by the airlines management.

"Due to the continuing operational disruption, some of the flights scheduled to operate on 9th September stand cancelled," a Jet Airways spokesperson said in a statement.

"Jet Airways regrets the inconvenience caused to its esteemed guests and seeks their understanding and support during this difficult phase," the spokesperson said.

Monday, September 07, 2009

WB govt scraps IT township project after another land row

West Bengal government on Monday scrapped its ambitious IT township project where top companies including Infosys and Wipro were supposed to set up shop following allegations of irregularities in land acquisition.

The decision comes as a setback to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government which suffered a major embarrassment following violent protests over land acquisition at Singur, from where Tata pulled out its Nano project, and Nandigram.

The government had formed a five-member committee on 4th September to look into the allegations of irregularities in land acquisition for the IT hub after the arrest of one of the directors of a joint sector company formed for setting up the project.

R K Modi, also one of the owners of Vedic Village luxury resort, was charged with forcible land acquisition and keeping illegal arms in his resort on the outskirts of the city. The government said that departments like Housing, Land and Land Reforms, Urban Development and PWD were in favour of scrapping the project.

"It is impossible for the IT department to proceed with the project if any of these departments refused to facilitate," an IT department release said. "The government does not want to be involved in any illegal activity. As such the IT department cannot proceed with the project," it said.

According to one estimate, the state will lose out on Rs 10,000 crore of potential investment and three lakh jobs due to the scrapping of the IT township, a pet project of the Chief Minister

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Black Box of crashed 430-helicopter found

The 'Black Box of the ill-fated Bell 430-helicopter which crashed on 2nd September on the Pavurala Gutta of Nallama hill range in the Rudracodur forest area, killing Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajashekhara Reddy and all the four other occupants, had been found by the police. Police found the cockpit voice recorder, popularly known as Black Box, on Friday evening.

The Black Box will be handed over to the five-member enquiry committee appointed by the Director General of Civil Aviation, which is likely to visit the crash site on Saturday. The DGCA team has been asked to submit the report within two months.

Police at Athmakur had registered a case of the crash following the death of Dr Reddy, his Principal Secretary Dr P Subramanyam, Chief Security Officer A S C Wesley and both the pilots, Group Captain S K Bhatia and Capt M S Reddy under section 174 of IPC

Friday, September 04, 2009

AI plane engine catches flames, narrow escape for 229 people

An engine of a Riyadh-bound Air India airplane with 229 people on board caught fire today while taxiing at the Mumbai airport, forcing it to abort take-off and mass departure of passengers through emergency exit chutes.

All the 213 passengers and 16 crew member of AI-829 flight were safe as the blaze was put out immediately, Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) officials said even as Air India derostered an aircraft conservation engineer, pending investigation.

As the Boeing B 747-400 plane was taxiing on the runway for takeoff at around 1050 hrs, a fire was detected in one of the two left side engines and the aircraft was brought to a halt. The emergency drill was activated, they said.
Fire tenders rushed to douse the fire that was visible from airport terminal, eyewitnesses said.

Black smoke billowed out from the plane's engine as the people were evacuate through emergency exit chutes and taken to safety. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has taken up investigation into the incident.

"We have initiated a probe," an official said. "An aircraft engineer responsible for supervising departure of the flight was derostered awaiting enquiry as per practice," an Air India spokesperson said.

When asked whether the fire was caused due to an oil leak, a DGCA official said, "It is too early to say anything." All the trapped passengers were later sent by another plane to Riyadh, the airline spokesperson said

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Indians in Russia 'building blocks' in strategic ties

President Pratibha Patil has described Indians in Russia as the "building blocks" in the bilateral strategic partnership as she met members of the community in Moscow on Wednesday. The President's interaction with the Indian community as well as prominent Russians who played a role in promoting the bilateral ties was her first engagement in Russia.

The President arrived at Moscow on the first leg of a two-nation trip that will also take her to Tajikistan. During her four-day stay in Russia, she will hold talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on bilateral, regional and global issues. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will also meet her.

Greeting the Indian community, she said Indians in Russia were "building blocks" in the strategic partnership between the two countries. Patil lauded Russia as a "time-tested friend" of India.

Earlier, she told reporters accompanying her that building "good relations with Russia is a matter that enjoys national consensus in India." "India and Russia have always been friends and our friendship is based on mutual trust, confidence and commonality of interests," Patil, on her maiden visit to Russia

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

China to unveil new missiles on National Day: state media

China will unveil a range of previously unknown missiles during its 1st October National Day parade, including intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles, state media said on Wednesday.

The new hardware on display also will include conventional cruise missiles and both short- and medium-range missiles, a leading newspaper reported, citing an unnamed People's Liberation Army source."These missiles are domestically designed and manufactured and have never been officially reported before,"

the source, who is with the PLA's strategic missile defence unit, was quoted as saying. The weapons have already been distributed to the military and are ready for operation, the source said. China's missile development programme has caused concern overseas, particularly in the United States, amid projections that it could soon tip the security balance in the Taiwan Strait.

An August report by the Rand Corporation, a US think-tank, said China was increasing both the quantity and quality of its short-range ballistic missiles, which could challenge the US's ability to protect Taiwan from possible attack.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Pak's N-arsenal contains up to 90 warheads

Pakistan's atomic weapons stockpile has jumped to an estimated 70-90 warheads from a previous figure of 60 and it is also developing two new types of nuclear-capable cruise missiles, according to a top American scientist.

Writing for the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Hans M Kristensen cited the latest Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to highlight Pakistan's expansion of its nuclear warheads.

The estimate of 70-90 nuclear warheads in Pakistan's atomic weapons stockpile is an increase compared with the previous estimate of approximately 60 warheads due to Islamabad's pending introduction of a new ballistic missile and cruise missiles, he said.

Kristensen wrote that Pakistan's nuclear-capable Shaheen-II medium-range ballistic missile also appears to be approaching operational deployment after long preparation.

The Army test-launched two missiles within three days in April 2008, and the US Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Centre (NASIC) reported in June 2009 that the weapon "probably will soon be deployed," he noted.

Two types of nuclear-capable cruise missiles are also under development the ground-launched Barbur and the air-launched Ra-ad, Kristensen said. Two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility are also under construction by Pakistan