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Marvelled at Moon, humanity’s Martian dream gets bigger in 2018 – 2018 in Retrospect

This year also marked only the second time in history that a human-made object reached the space between the stars as NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited the heliosphere — the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.



elon musk

New Delhi, Dec 20 : Even as the debate heats up on whether we need a “backup” planet, as advocated by tech billionaire and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the resolve to take humans to Mars got stronger in 2018.

Musk told the media in November that there is “70 per cent chance that he will go to Mars”, despite a “good chance” of him not surviving either on the way or after landing. It is only very likely that only a few people might be willing to join Musk in this journey – either because of the risk or the cost involved.

But his “Starship” (formerly known as the BFR), a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars and also to dramatically cut travel time within Earth, got its first reservation from a private passenger this year — Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa — who is scheduled to start a journey to the Moon in 2023.

This year, the US space agency NASA also firmed up its plans to return humans to the Moon and use its lunar experience to prepare to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.

In February, NASA hosted a conference for scientists to discuss future exploration and research using the Gateway spacecraft that will orbit the Moon and support human and robotic missions. In the following months, the space agency announced several measures to take the mission forward.

“We created new US commercial partnerships to land back on the Moon. We made breakthroughs in our quest to send humans farther into space than ever before,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Boosting such ambition this year was a demonstration of a new nuclear reactor power system that could provide surface power on the Moon and Mars.

What excited the scientists even more was the discovery of a large saltwater lake under the ice near the South Pole on the Red Planet – raising the possibility of life being there on Mars in some form.

The discovery by a team of Italian researchers was made using an instrument on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft.

While a manned-mission to Mars is still at least a decade away, NASA successfully launched this year a probe to “touch the Sun”. The mission broke records for fastest human-made object and closest approach to the Sun, and sent home its first light images – including a picture of Earth – in late October, NASA said, adding that the probe’s first flight through the Sun’s outer atmosphere was on November 7.

In 2018, NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission reached its destination after a two-year journey. The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu on December 3. Analysis of initial data from the mission revealed water locked inside the clay that makes up Bennu.

This year also marked only the second time in history that a human-made object reached the space between the stars as NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited the heliosphere — the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.

The year also bid farewell to two veteran scientific spacecraft – one of them NASA’s Kepler space telescope that ran out of fuel after nine years of searching for planets outside our solar system.

NASA, however, now has a probe to take forward Kepler’s job. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in April, is continuing the search for planets outside our solar system.

NASA said its Dawn mission, which was launched in 2007, also ran out of fuel this year, but not before becoming the first spacecraft to orbit two separate bodies in the solar system – the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres.

The year also brought relief to space enthusiasts as Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague escaped unhurt after their Soyuz spacecraft heading to the International Space Station (ISS) had to make an emergency landing due to a booster failure.

And even as the US remains at the forefront of space exploration, the world has learned to train its eyes on China, which is reportedly developing a new-generation manned rocket and spacecraft for its lunar explorations.

(Gokul Bhagabati can be contacted at [email protected])


2019 Lok Sabha elections: Voters to decide country’s direction- Jobs or Ram Mandir



Rahul , Modi

March 20 : Will people of India vote on basic survival issues viz unemployment, safety of women, inflation, high cost of education and communal harmony or on the RSS-BJP ideology of Hindu Rashtra, Ram Mandir and segregating the minorities or on country’s economic growth, stability and national security.

Indian populace has experienced and tasted both Modi led NDA and Congress-led UPA governments. But Narendra Modi, who promised to deliver good governance turned into a dictator and instead of providing safe environment to women, rooting out corruption, keeping our borders safe- transformed India into a communal divided country.

With demonetisation and GST, Modi ruined the Middle Class, small traders and even many companies were forced to shut down. But Modi described his decision as the best to clean the society from corruption and securing the country from terrorists. Alas! both threats still exist.

To sum up the analysis of Modi’s Prime Ministership, Modi turned out to be a successful alliance builder and luring leaders of other parties to form BJP governments in many states but is a worst policymaker.

Modi rolled out dozens of projects and relaunched UPA schemes just to mislead people that government is performing but the middle class, farmers continue to live in misery.

The Modi administration has been the most lawless in India’s history. The first perceived accusation on the 14th Prime Minister of India is he considers himself as professionally above the law, ignoring the executive branch’s legal limits and disrespecting constitutional norms like federalism and the separation of powers.

Even West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was disrupting the federal structure by undertaking several programmes without discussing with the state governments, which is “not good for democracy“.

“We have already withdrawn our participation from the programmes like Ayushman Bharat and crop insurance to farmers. We are continuing our own programme, Swasthya Sathi, and crop insurance to farmers from our funds. We shall not take a single paise from the Centre,” she said.

His government has weakened relatively independent RBI, Central Information Commission, Election Commission, CBI and CVC.

Anantkumar Hegde, a central minister in the Modi government said that BJP had come to power with the intention to “change” the Constitution, specifically because it mentions the word ‘secular’ and believes to adopt Manusmriti (translated as the “Laws of Manu”), a Hindu law-book that is a monument to Brahmin superiority and prescribes sub-human status to women, so-called “lower castes” and “untouchables”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made 41 trips to over 50 countries, at a total cost of Rs 355 crore but his Pakistan’s policy lacks skill and diplomacy as terror attacks surged during his tenure (2015 Jammu attack, Gurdaspur attack, Pathankot Air force station attack Pampore attack,2016 Uri attack, Baramulla attack, Nagrota attack, 2017 Amarnath Yatra attack, 2018 Sunjuwan attack, Pulwama attack).

Modi only furthered the dictatorial approach, by going to Pakistan to attend Nawaz Sharif’s party without formulating any specific strategy to deal with Islamabad.

Modi who said that his character is to take revenge didn’t even bother to check his ministers who used to give provocative statements that led to lynching incidents and alienated Kashmiris. India’s biggest challenge in Kashmir is radicalisation of youth in Kashmir. Modi’s flawed Kashmir policy is responsible for the current situation in the valley. Modi also invited Pakistan’s ISI in Pathankot Air force station.

Modi’s arrogance is evident from the fact that he has forgotten to deliver, rather his line of action changed from governance and depositing Rs15 Lakh into accounts of each Indian (which Modi promised) to Congress Hatao campaign- which is not an issue for an Indian or a common man as voters are much concerned with their progress and financial condition.
Political parties should avoid playing with the aspirations of the voters by giving false hopes as Modi faltered in creating two crore jobs a year and now resorting to manipulating data to mislead people.

About 108 economists and social scientists called for the restoration of “institutional independence” and integrity of statistical organisations and to raise their voice against the tendency of Modi government “to suppress uncomfortable data”.

In 2014, Modi identified himself as Chaiwala to attract votes and this time again, he is identifying himself as Chowkidar but voters need to be alert as why he allowed Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and others to escape from the country with taxpayers’ money and started the process of extradition when Lok Sabha elections are around the corner.

The Balakot operation was conducted by Indian Air force and Prime Minister Modi or government should avoid to take credit of the air strike as it is the duty of the government to deal with enemy country and to equip country’s army so as to secure our borders but Modi adventurous Pakistan’s visit and flawed policy has resulted into more attacks along the LoC and killing of our soldiers.


By Arti Bali,

(Senior Journalist)

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Balakot has changed the political narrative in UP



Narendra Modi

The Balakot air strike against a militant training camp in Pakistan and the blitzkrieg that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah launched in its aftermath has drastically changed the narrative in the past few days in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh ahead of the general elections due in April-May.

And so, as the BJP leaves no stone unturned to capitalise on the developments, some times even going overboard, the leadership of the main opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) was “indeed rattled at the developments and had been stunned by the decisive political go ahead” in ordering the air strikes an insider told IANS.

“The party very well understood that the air strikes are being seen as a positive by the public at large so we huddled to change our offensive on the Prime Minister” a close aide of party chief Akhilesh Yadav averred.

Quite calculatedly, the party is neither questioning the air strikes nor doubting the claims of the government that it did inflict a body blow to the JeM terror network. It has, however, begun to question the both Modi and the BJP going ahead with its own functions and engagements.

Harish Chandra Srivastava, a spokesman for the state unit of the BJP, says this was the proverbial “khisiyani billi khambha noche (when you are embarrassed you run for cover) as the opposition is jittery at the growing popularity of the Prime Minister.

Mayawati, whose BSP is in a poll alliance with the SP and who never missed an opportunity to castigate the Prime Minister, has lauded the IAF action but with a rider: It should have been done earlier.

A former minister in the BSP government between 2007-2012, on condition of anonymity said that ‘behen ji’ has been struggling ever since with the changed narrative and was at a party meeting seeking feedback on the air strikes from the ground workers and is reworking her strategy for the Lok Sabha polls.

Realising that even the slightest of mistake or an insinuation on the air strikes or military action ordered by Modi could put to rest their chances, both the BSP and the SP have hence decided to decry the Prime Minister on many issues but to “try and avoid detailed questioning on the offensive against terror groups”.

Straw polls are a clear indication of this.

Punters had been giving upwards of 40 of the state’s 80 seats to the SP-BSP and just about 30 to the BJP. Post the air strikes, the BJP has climbed to 40 seats but this is nowhere near the 71 seats it held in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The Congress, which went into celebratory mode with the political debut of Priyanka Gandhi as the General Secretary for Eastern UP, has also reworked its strategy. While Rahul Gandhi is attacking Modi for trying to usurp the credit of the brave defence forces, his sister is staying quiet, working backroom and assimilating people from other parties into the Grand Old Party.

“She will not launch a direct attack on the PM on this issue for now. Apparently, she realises, the emotiveness of the issue and is watchful of what the maut-ka-saudagar jibe (of her mother Sonia Gandhi against Modi) did in Gujarat,” a close aide of Priyanka said.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at [email protected])

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Market to break present range; as Nifty in ‘Tri-Star’ formation



Sensex equity Nifty

Mumbai, March 3: Indo-Pak tensions, along with build-up of anxiety over the general elections and clamour around global growth concerns has culminated into a ‘Tri-Star’ formation on monthly technical charts which is expected to push the Indian equity markets out of the present trade range.

In market parlance, the ‘Tri-Star’ formation represents a technical pattern which generally culminates into reversal of a set trend. At present, Nifty50 has made this pattern on monthly charts.

In the past, a similar pattern was witnessed from August to November 2015 (four dojis instead of three). Post this pattern, the Nifty was pulled lower due to a sharp plunge in the Chinese markets and tensions between North Korea and South Korea.

Another instance of the pattern appeared between February and April 2004, ahead of the general elections in that year. In May, the Nifty sold off due to unexpected defeat of NDA government of that time.

Lately, the market sentiment has been impacted by heavy volatility due to corporate governance issues, liquidity crunch and default fears which have kept the market in a tight trading range.

According to senior market analysts, these factors have negated the positives like lower inflation, and relief measures from RBI as well as government and created a tri-star or three dojis pattern.

Currently, the Nifty shows three dojis in a sideways trend after a fall from the highs of 11,760 points.

“Global economic data appears to be a typical late cycle. This means many developed markets are either in a recession or close to one,” Sahil Kapoor, Chief Market Strategist-Research, Edelweiss Wealth Management.

“This global drag presents a burden on India’s growth as well. Add some apprehensions about what kind of government, majority or coalition, will India elect and you get an uncertain backdrop. Investors usually are fine with uncertain outcomes because they are always present.”

“But uncertainty which is systemic and tough be set into probabilities leads investors to wait and seek more clarity.”

According to Deepak Jasani, Head of Retail Research for HDFC Securities: “Three dojis are also known as Tristar Doji pattern. Normally this is an early signal of a sharp move or reversal. A break of the high or low of these three candles will signify a sharp breakout or breakdown.”

“In the present case these levels are 11,118 or 10,334 points. This pattern at the current juncture signifies uncertainty ahead of elections and also on growth concerns due to local and global factors.”

Last week, the broader NSE Nifty50 finished at 10,791.65, up just 67.25 points or 0.6 per cent from its previous week’s close.

“Oil’s pull back as well as China-US trade impasse has also been instrumental in keeping risk appetite on the check, ensuring that global cues gave scant support to bulls in attempts to shrug off the domestic troubles,” Anand James, Chief Market Strategist at Geojit.

“Tight trading ranges for extended period can mean only one thing, that they are about to be broken.”

By Rohit Vaid

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected])

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