- ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 takes off for the moon
- Places of Worship Act
- New Scorpene class submarines for the Navy
- Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U 2.0)
- Atlantic menhaden
- Floating Gold
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 Takes off for The Moon
Chandrayaan-3 is India’s second attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon after the unsuccessful landing of Chandrayaan-2’s lander and rover in 2019. If successful, India will become the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the moon, following the United States, Russia, and China.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- How Space Missions Work?
- Chandrayaan Missions
- Chandrayaan-3 Mission Objectives
- Launch Window and its Precision
- Duration of Lander’s Journey to the Moon
- Reasons for Exploring the Moon
How Space Missions Work?
Rocket and Spacecraft Components:
- A space mission consists of two main components: the rocket (or carrier) and the spacecraft (satellite or payload).
- The rocket’s primary function is to transport the spacecraft into space, while the spacecraft carries out its mission once in space.
- In most missions, the rocket is destroyed after completing its job, while the spacecraft remains operational.
Powered Flight and Launch:
- The launch of a spacecraft involves a period of powered flight, where the rocket rises above Earth’s atmosphere and accelerates.
- Rockets are powered by a propellant, a combination of fuel and oxidizers, which generate the energy required for lift-off.
- The powered flight continues until the rocket’s last stage burns out and the spacecraft separates.
- By this point, the spacecraft ideally should have been placed into the intended orbit of the planetary body it is targeting.
- Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first lunar exploration mission launched on October 22, 2008.
- The primary objective was to create a three-dimensional atlas of the Moon and conduct chemical and mineralogical mapping of the lunar surface.
- It operated for at least 312 days, making over 3,400 orbits around the Moon.
- The mission made significant discoveries related to the presence of water (H2O) and hydroxyl (OH) on the lunar surface, with enhanced abundance towards the polar regions. Ice was also detected in the North polar region.
- Chandrayaan-2 aimed to explore the south pole of the Moon and consisted of an Orbiter, Lander, and Rover.
- It was launched in July 2019 but encountered a partial success.
- On September 7, 2019, the lander named Vikram and the rover named Pragyaan crashed on the Moon’s surface.
- Despite the setback, the Orbiter performed well and continued to gather data.
- It built upon the water discovery of Chandrayaan-1 and found signatures of water at all latitudes.
- The Large Area Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (CLASS) on the mission also detected the minor elements chromium and manganese for the first time through remote sensing.
Chandrayaan-3 Mission Objectives:
- The main objective of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is to demonstrate India’s technical capabilities and achieve a successful soft landing on the Moon.
- A soft landing refers to safely landing a spacecraft on the Moon’s surface at a gentle pace, without human intervention, after traveling through space at high speeds.
Payloads and Scientific Objectives:
- The payloads on the lander and rover will be similar to those used in the Chandrayaan-2 mission.
- The lander will carry four scientific payloads to study lunar quakes, thermal properties of the lunar surface, changes in plasma near the surface, and perform a passive experiment to measure the distance between Earth and the Moon accurately. One of the payloads will be provided by NASA.
- The rover will carry two payloads to study the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface, focusing on elements like magnesium, aluminum, and iron in the lunar soil and rocks.
Landing Site and Importance of the South Pole:
- The landing site for Chandrayaan-3 will be near the south pole of the Moon, which is the same as the previous Chandrayaan-2 mission.
- The lunar south pole offers challenging conditions but holds promise for deep space scientific discoveries.
- NASA highlights the significance of lunar polar volatiles, which are chemical elements or compounds in a solid state that can melt or evaporate at moderately warm temperatures. Understanding their distribution on the Moon is crucial.
- If these volatiles contain elements like hydrogen and oxygen, it could have a profound impact on future deep space exploration and commerce, potentially reducing the need for Earth-based supplies to support human activities in space.
Launch Window and its Precision:
Definition of Launch Window:
- A launch window refers to the specific time period during which a mission must be launched.
- For example, Chandrayaan-3 took off at 2:35 pm, indicating the designated launch window for that mission.
- Importance of Precision:
- The precise timing of a launch window is crucial for missions that require the spacecraft to approach another spacecraft, a planet, or a specific point in space.
- It ensures that the orbits of the spacecraft and the target body overlap at some point in the future.
Illustration with Athletics Race Track:
- The European Space Agency (ESA) offers an analogy to explain the concept.
- Imagine the Solar System as an athletics race track.
- If you want to intercept a runner on the opposite side of the track, you could chase them, but it would require a lot of energy and a long distance to catch up.
- However, a more efficient method is to walk across the center of the circular track, reaching the other side at the same time as the runner.
- Timing is crucial: arriving too early means waiting, while arriving too late means missing the runner completely and having to wait for another lap.
Curved Paths in Spaceflight:
- The analogy demonstrates that straight-line paths do not exist in spaceflight due to the curved paths of celestial bodies.
- Planets, including Earth, move in long, curved orbits around the Sun, following circular or elliptical paths.
- Calculating the constant movement of Earth and other planetary bodies is essential to determine the shortest and most fuel-efficient path for the spacecraft.
Duration of Lander’s Journey to the Moon:
The journey of the lander to the Moon is expected to take approximately 42 days, with the landing scheduled for August 23 at lunar dawn.
Process and Manoeuvres:
- The Chandrayaan-3 mission will be launched into space by the Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM-III).
- Initially, the spacecraft will be in an orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 179 km.
- Through a series of manoeuvres, the spacecraft will gradually increase its orbit to escape Earth’s gravity and head towards the Moon.
- Upon reaching proximity to the Moon, the spacecraft will need to be captured by the Moon’s gravity.
Orbit Reduction and Descent:
- Following capture by the Moon’s gravity, further manoeuvres will be conducted to reduce the spacecraft’s orbit to a circular one at 100×100 km.
- At this stage, the lander, carrying the rover inside, will separate from the propulsion module and begin its powered descent towards the Moon’s surface.
Lunar Day and Night:
- The lander and rover have a mission life of one Lunar day, which lasts for 14 Earth days.
- Each Lunar day and night is equivalent to approximately one month (close to 28 Earth days) as the Moon completes one rotation on its axis and one revolution around the Earth.
- The extreme drop in temperatures during lunar nights makes it challenging for the lander and rover to survive, which is why they are being landed at dawn.
Reasons for Exploring the Moon:
- The Moon is the closest cosmic body to Earth and provides an opportunity for space discovery and documentation.
- It serves as a test bed to demonstrate technologies required for future deep-space missions.
- Exploring the Moon can stimulate technological advancements, foster global collaborations, and inspire the next generation of explorers and scientists.
-Source: Indian Express
Places of Worship Act
The Supreme Court of India has adjourned the case regarding the validity of the Places of Worship Act of 1991, allowing the Centre until October 31, 2023, to clarify its stand on the matter.
GS I- Communalism, Secularism, Regionalism, GS II- Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the Places of Worship Act?
- What are its provisions?
- When was this law passed?
- Issues with the law
- What did the Supreme Court say about the Places of Worship Act in its Ayodhya judgment?
What is the Places of Worship Act?
The long title describes it as “An Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
What are its provisions?
- Section 3 of the Act bars the conversion, in full or part, of a place of worship of any religious denomination into a place of worship of a different religious denomination — or even a different segment of the same religious denomination.
- Section 4(1) declares that the religious character of a place of worship “shall continue to be the same as it existed” on August 15, 1947.
- Section 4(2) says any suit or legal proceeding with respect to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, pending before any court, shall abate — and no fresh suit or legal proceedings shall be instituted.
- The proviso to this subsection saves suits, appeals and legal proceedings that are pending on the date of commencement of the Act, if they pertain to the conversion of the religious character of a place of worship after the cut-off date.
- Section 5 stipulates that the Act shall not apply to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, and to any suit, appeal or proceeding relating to it.
When was this law passed?
- The Act was brought by the Congress government of Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao at a time when the Ram temple movement was at its peak.
- The Babri Masjid was still standing, but L K Advani’s rath yatra, his arrest in Bihar, and the firing on kar sevaks in Uttar Pradesh had raised communal tensions.
Issues with the law
- The law has been challenged on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.
- It imposes an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff date”, and abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
What did the Supreme Court say about the Places of Worship Act in its Ayodhya judgment?
- The constitutional validity of the 1991 Act was not under challenge, nor had it been examined before the Supreme Court Bench that heard the Ramjanmaboomi-Babri Masjid title suit.
- Even so, the court, while disagreeing with certain conclusions drawn by the Allahabad High Court about the Act, made specific observations in its support.
- The Places of Worship Act imposes a non-derogable obligation towards enforcing our commitment to secularism under the Indian Constitution.
- The law is hence a legislative instrument designed to protect the secular features of the Indian polity, which is one of the basic features of the Constitution.
- The Places of Worship Act is a legislative intervention which preserves non-retrogression as an essential feature of our secular values.
-Source: The Hindu
New Scorpene Class Submarines For the Navy
The Defence Acquisition Council, the apex decision-making body for the acquisition of military equipment for India’s armed forces cleared proposals worth thousands of crores to buy three additional Scorpene submarines and 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets for the Navy.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- The new submarines
- Need for the three additional submarines
- Capabilities of the Scorpene submarines
- Comparison between Scorpene submarines and nuclear submarines
The new submarines
- The Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) is constructing six Scorpene class submarines as part of Project-75, with five already commissioned and the final one expected to be commissioned next year.
- The fifth submarine under this project, INS Vagir, was commissioned in January this year. The others — INS Kalvari, INS Khanderi, INS Karanj and INS Vela were commissioned between 2017 and 2021. In May this year, the sixth submarine Vagsheer began her sea trials.
- The project has experienced significant delays, with the first submarine originally scheduled for delivery in 2012.
- The Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved the construction of three additional Scorpene submarines by the MDL, likely with similar specifications as the previous ones.
Need for the three additional submarines
- The decision to procure the three additional submarines was influenced by the delayed deliveries of submarines under Project 75 and the need to strengthen India’s submarine fleet.
- Currently, the Navy has 16 conventional submarines in service, but it requires at least 18 submarines to carry out its full spectrum of operations.
- A significant percentage of submarines are often under refit, further reducing the strength of operational submarines.
- The procurement of additional submarines will help maintain the required force level and operational readiness of the Navy. It will also create employment opportunities and enhance the domestic submarine construction sector.
Capabilities of the Scorpene submarines
- The Scorpene submarines are designed as conventional attack submarines to target and sink enemy naval vessels.
- They have the capability to launch a variety of torpedoes and missiles and are equipped with surveillance and intelligence-gathering systems.
- These submarines have a length of approximately 220 feet and a height of about 40 feet.
- They can reach speeds of 11 knots (20 km/h) when surfaced and 20 knots (37 km/h) when submerged.
- The Scorpene class submarines use a diesel-electric propulsion system with an endurance of around 50 days, alternating between diesel for surface operations and electric for underwater operations.
- However, they need to periodically surface to recharge their electric batteries using the diesel engine.
Comparison between Scorpene submarines and nuclear submarines:
- Nuclear submarines have theoretically unlimited endurance due to their nuclear reactors, which can operate for up to 30 years without refueling.
- They do not rely on batteries and can remain submerged for extended periods, only needing to surface to replenish crew supplies.
- Nuclear submarines can achieve higher speeds compared to conventional submarines.
- They require specialized expertise to operate and are more expensive to procure and maintain.
- Scorpene submarines use a diesel-electric propulsion system and have an endurance of approximately 50 days before needing to surface for refueling.
- With the retrofitting of air independent propulsion (AIP) systems, the endurance and stealth of Scorpene submarines will be enhanced.
- Advances in diesel-electric technology have increased the range and stealth capabilities of conventional submarines.
- Scorpene submarines are more cost-effective compared to nuclear submarines.
Current status in India:
- The Indian Navy has two nuclear-powered submarines of the Arihant class in service.
- The Scorpene class submarines in India will be retrofitted with AIP systems starting in 2024, which will improve their endurance and stealth capabilities.
-Source: Indian Express
Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U 2.0)
Recently, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) organized a review-cum-workshop to evaluate and accelerate the planning and implementation of the second phase of Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U 2.0) across the country.
GS II: Government policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
- Key Highlights of the JMP Report on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene:
- About Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U)
- Open Defecation Free (ODF) status
Key Highlights of the JMP Report on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene:
Open Defecation in India:
- The report highlights that 17% of the rural population in India still practices open defecation.
- This indicates a significant portion of the population lacking access to proper sanitation facilities.
Lack of Basic Sanitation:
- A quarter of the rural population in India does not have access to “at least basic” sanitation facilities.
- Basic services refer to improved sanitation facilities that households do not share with others.
Progress since 2015:
- The report tracks progress since 2015 when sanitation goals were set.
- In 2015, around 41% of the rural population practiced open defecation, which reduced to 17% in 2022.
- The percentage of households with at least basic sanitation increased from 51% in 2015 to 75% in 2022.
Decline Rate and ODF Status:
- India has registered an annual average decline of 3.39% in open defecation.
- If this decline rate continues, it would take approximately four to five years to achieve open defecation-free status.
Importance of Behavioral Change:
- The report emphasizes the importance of promoting behavioral change to encourage toilet usage over open defecation.
- It highlights the need to quantify and measure the shift towards using toilets to accurately determine Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.
Public Health Implications:
- Addressing open defecation is crucial for addressing public health implications associated with poor sanitation.
- Eliminating open defecation contributes to improved hygiene and reduced risks of disease transmission.
Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation:
- The report stresses the importance of continuous monitoring and evaluation of sanitation practices.
- This helps identify areas for improvement and ensures sustained progress in achieving sanitation goals.
Reassessment and Comprehensive Measures:
- Based on the findings of the JMP report, there is a need to reassess the ODF milestone in India.
- Comprehensive measures should be taken to address open defecation and improve sanitation facilities nationwide.
About Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U)
Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) is a national campaign launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to promote cleanliness, sanitation, and waste management in urban areas in India. Here are the key points:
Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 1.0:
- The first phase focused on achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status in urban areas by providing access to toilets and promoting behavioral change.
- It successfully achieved the target, and all urban areas in India were declared ODF.
Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0 (2021-2026):
- SBM-U 2.0 is the continuation of the first phase, aiming to go beyond ODF and focus on ODF+ and ODF++ status, as well as making urban areas garbage-free.
- It emphasizes sustainable sanitation practices, waste management, and the promotion of a circular economy.
- Urban India has become Open Defecation Free, with all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) declared ODF.
- Many ULBs have achieved ODF+ and ODF++ status, ensuring functional and hygienic community and public toilets, as well as proper faecal sludge management.
- Waste processing has significantly increased, with 75% of waste being processed in 2023 compared to 17% in 2014.
- Door-to-door waste collection is practiced in 97% of wards, and source segregation of waste is prevalent in almost 90% of wards across all ULBs.
- The Garbage Free Cities (GFC)-Star rating protocol has been implemented, with the aim of having at least 1,000 3-star GFCs by October 2024.
- The budget for 2023-24 emphasizes the scientific management of dry and wet waste, reinforcing India’s commitment to building a circular economy.
Open Defecation Free (ODF) status
Open Defecation Free (ODF) status is a designation given to an area when there is no open defecation observed in that area. Here are the definitions of different ODF statuses:
- ODF: An area can be declared as ODF if, at any point of the day, there is no instance of open defecation, meaning no person is found defecating in the open.
- ODF+: This status is achieved when, at any point of the day, no person is found defecating or urinating in the open, and all community and public toilets in the area are functional, well-maintained, and accessible to the community.
- ODF++: This status is an advanced level of ODF+. To achieve ODF++ status, an area must already be ODF+ and demonstrate safe management and treatment of faecal sludge/septage and sewage. There should be no discharging or dumping of untreated faecal sludge and sewage into open drains, water bodies, or other areas.
-Source: Down To Earth
Recently, researchers said that overfishing of the Atlantic menhaden are at the root of the declining reproductive rates of ospreys(bird) at Mobjack Bay, an inlet at the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay.
GS III: Environment and Ecology
Dimensions of the Article:
- Atlantic Menhaden
- Chesapeake Bay
About Atlantic menhaden
- The Atlantic menhaden, also known as Fatback, Bunker, or Pogie, is a commercially important fish species found in coastal and estuarine waters along the Atlantic Ocean, from Nova Scotia to northern Florida.
- They are filter feeders, primarily consuming phytoplankton and zooplankton in the water column.
- They are harvested for various purposes such as fertilizers, animal feed, and bait for fisheries including blue crab and lobster.
- Atlantic menhaden are a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are used to develop supplements for both humans and animals.
- The disappearance of menhaden from the Chesapeake Bay has had an impact on the species that rely on them for food.
- According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Atlantic menhaden is categorized as “least concern,” indicating that it is not currently facing a significant threat of extinction.
- The Chesapeake Bay is the largest inlet in the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the eastern United States.
- It was formed by the submergence of the lower courses of the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.
- The bay is bordered by Virginia in the southern part and Maryland in the northern part.
-Source: Indian Express
A massive chunk of “floating gold” was recently found in the belly of a dead whale beached on the Spanish island of La Palma.
Facts for Prelims
About Floating Gold
- Floating Gold, also known as Ambergris, is a waxy substance extracted from the bile duct in the intestines of sperm whales. Here are some key points about it:
- Ambergris is a solid, inflammable substance that is produced by approximately one in every hundred sperm whales.
- It is believed to form when indigestible elements like squid beaks and cuttlefish pens bypass the vomiting process and bind together in the whale’s intestines over several years.
- The formation of ambergris is thought to be a protective mechanism for the whale’s internal organs against the sharp squid beaks.
- When newly formed, it emits a distinctive odor reminiscent of the sea and faeces, but as it matures, it develops a pleasant, earthy aroma.
- Ambergris has been primarily used in the perfume industry due to its woody scent and its ability to fix and extend the life of fragrances.
- It contains ambrein, an odorless alcohol that enhances the longevity and quality of scents.