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China Successfully Launches Its First Spacecraft To Moon To Collect Samples, Return To Earth

The spacecraft was launched by a Long March-5 rocket at 4.30 am (Beijing Time)

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China successfully launched its first unmanned space mission on Tuesday to collect samples from the moon’s surface and return to earth, the country’s maiden attempt to retrieve materials from an extra-terrestrial body.

China has successfully launched the Chang’e-5 lunar probe from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the southern province of Hainan, state-run CGTN reported. The spacecraft was launched by a Long March-5 rocket at 4.30 am (Beijing Time).

Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in China’s aerospace history, as well as the world’s first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years.

The United States sent astronauts to the moon to collect samples. In the Soviet Union’s unmanned lunar sampling missions, the spacecraft took off from the moon and returned to Earth directly.

But China chose a complicated technological approach including unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, which could bring back more samples and lay a technological foundation for manned lunar missions, according to Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Centre of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), ahead of the launch.

The mission will help promote China’s science and technology development and lay an important foundation for China’s future manned lunar landing and deep space exploration, Pei said.

Chang’e-5, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, with a total take-off mass of 8.2 tonnes, is expected to accomplish unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, a complicated feat.

After it enters the lunar orbit, the lander-ascender combination will separate from the orbiter-returner combination.

While the orbiter-returner orbits about 200 km above the lunar surface, the lander-ascender will touch down on the northwest region of Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on the near side of the moon in early December, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Within 48 hours, a robotic arm will be extended to scoop up rocks and regolith on the lunar surface, and a drill will bore into the ground. About 2 kg of samples are expected to be collected and sealed in a container in the spacecraft.

Then the ascender will take off, and dock with the orbiter-returner in orbit. After the samples are transferred to the returner, the ascender will separate from the orbiter-returner.

When the geometric relationship between Earth and the moon is suitable, the orbiter will carry the returner back to the planet. The returner will re-enter the atmosphere and land at the Siziwang Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The whole flight will last more than 20 days.

Pei said if the Chang’e-5 mission succeeds, China’s current lunar exploration project would come to a successful conclusion.

Named after legendary Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, China’s current three-step lunar exploration programme, which began in 2004, includes orbiting and landing on the moon along with bringing back samples.

The aim of the programme is for China to acquire the basic technologies of unmanned lunar exploration with limited investment, Pei said.

China is drawing up plans for future lunar exploration. To pave the way for manned lunar exploration and deep space exploration, the Chang’e-5 mission will use a sampling method different from those of the United States and the Soviet Union, Pei said.

“Unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit will be a historic first. It will be very difficult,” said Peng Jing, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-5 probe from the China Academy of Space Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

“We could call it a milestone mission. Its success will help us acquire the basic capabilities for future deep space exploration such as sampling and take-off from Mars, asteroids and other celestial bodies,” Peng was quoted by Xinhua.

The scientific goals of the Chang’e-5 mission include the investigation of the landing area to obtain the on-site analysis data related to the lunar samples, as well as systematic and long-term laboratory analysis of the lunar samples.

The landing site of Chang’e-5 will be to the west of that of Chang’e-3, which went to the moon in 2013.

This site is chosen because the region has a young geological age, younger than the sampling areas of the United States and the Soviet Union 40 years ago. This region has never been sampled. The new samples will be of great scientific value, Chinese experts said.

“Domestic and overseas scientists will all have a chance to get the lunar samples to be brought back by Chang’e-5 for research,” Pei added.

India

Parliamentary panel summons Facebook, Twitter officials on Jan 21

Earlier, the committee had summoned Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan over the issue of political bias on the social media platform.

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New Delhi, Jan 18: The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology has issued summons to officials of Facebook and Twitter for January 21, to question them over misuse of the social media/online news platforms.

The schedule of meeting on the Lok Sabha website read: “Evidence of representatives of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and to hear the views of the representatives of Facebook and Twitter on the subject safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space.”

Earlier, the committee had summoned Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan over the issue of political bias on the social media platform.

The allegations of a Facebook bias towards the BJP were reported in The Wall Street Journal in August 2020 and had claimed that Ankhi Das, the platform’s then India Policy Head had opposed the idea of removing hate posts by BJP leaders, warning that this could hamper their “commercial interests”.

Das has now quit Facebook.

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CAIT moves SC against WhatsApp, Facebook

The CAIT will not allow any corporate or conglomerate to enforce its ‘obnoxious policies and sinister designs’ to make profit in an unethical manner by firing from the shoulder of the people of India, added its petition.

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on Saturday filed a petition in the Supreme Court with the prayer to direct WhatsApp to withdraw its new privacy policy which is encroaching upon various fundamental rights of the citizens granted by the Constitution of India.

CAIT has also prayed that the Union of India must frame guidelines to govern big technology companies like WhatsApp and frame policies which would protect the privacy of citizens and businesses.

The petition especially highlights the difference of approach in EU and India countries with respect to the privacy policy of WhatsApp and how the data of Indian users can be misused by such big tech companies. The petition has been drafted by Advocate Abir Roy and settled and filed in Supreme Court by Advocate on Record Vivek Narayan Sharma.

CAIT National President B.C. Bhartia and Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal charged that WhatsApp has adopted the approach of ‘my way or high way’ which is arbitrary, unjustified, unconstitutional and cannot be accepted in a democratic country like India. WhatsApp has been fraudulently collecting personal user data.

At the time of its launch, WhatsApp attracted users based on the promise of non-sharing of user data and strong privacy principles. In 2014, after the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook, when the users had started doubting the privacy of their data and were in fear that their personal data will be shared with Facebook, WhatsApp promised that nothing would change in the privacy policy after the acquisition. However, in August 2016, WhatsApp retracted from its promise and introduced a new Privacy Policy which severely compromised the rights of its users and made the privacy rights of users completely vulnerable, CAIT said.

Under the new privacy policy, it allowed the sharing of personal data with Facebook and all its group companies for commercial advertising and marketing. Since then, the company has been altering its policies to collect and process a wider range of information, and share the same with the third party applications.

The CAIT will not allow any corporate or conglomerate to enforce its ‘obnoxious policies and sinister designs’ to make profit in an unethical manner by firing from the shoulder of the people of India, added its petition.

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Mobile numbers of WhatsApp on Web users found on Google Search

According to Rajaharia, the latest leak of personal mobile numbers via WhatsApp on Web has not been addressed so far by the either Facebook-owned platform or Google.

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : As WhatsApp faces intense scrutiny over its upcoming data and privacy policy in India and elsewhere, another user data violation has been reported, this time on the WhatsApp on Desktop (Web) application, allegedly exposing personal mobile numbers via indexing on Google Search.

Although WhatsApp is primarily a mobile app, currently being used by over 400 million users in India, some working professionals also use the instant chat app on their desktops and PCs via the Web version.

Independent cybersecurity researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia on Friday shared some screenshots with IANS showing indexing of personal mobile numbers of WhatsApp users via Web version on Google Search.

“The leak is happening via WhatsApp on Web. If someone is using WhatsApp on laptop or on an office PC, the mobile numbers are being indexed on Google Search. These are mobile numbers of individual users not business numbers,” Rajaharia told IANS.

Earlier this week, concerned at private group chat links being available on Google Search, WhatsApp said that it had asked Google not to index such chats and advised users not to share group chat links on publicly accessible websites.

Google had indexed invite links to private WhatsApp group chats, meaning anyone can join various private chat groups with a simple search. The indexed WhatsApp group chat links have now been removed from Google.

“Despite WhatsApp advising users and telling Google to remove the earlier exposed group chat links, the mobile numbers via WhatsApp Web application are now being indexed on Google Search,” Rajaharia noted.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said in an earlier statement that since March 2020, WhatsApp has included the “noindex” tag on all deep link pages which, according to Google, will exclude them from indexing.

“We have given our feedback to Google to not index these chats. Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website,” the company spokesperson said.

The issue was first cropped up in February last year when app reverse-engineer Jane Wong found that Google has around 470,000 results for a simple search of “chat.whatsapp.com”, part of the URL that makes up invites to WhatsApp groups.

According to Rajaharia, the latest leak of personal mobile numbers via WhatsApp on Web has not been addressed so far by the either Facebook-owned platform or Google.

The revelation comes at a time when WhatsApp is changing its privacy policy and users will have to “agree and accept” if they plan to keep using the app post-February 8.

On Friday, a single judge bench of the Delhi High Court recused from hearing a petition against the WhatsApp’s upcoming data and privacy policy, on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy of citizens of India.

The plea will now be listed before another bench and would come up for hearing on January 18.

–IANS

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