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NASA InSight landed 4 degrees tilted on Mars

Higher-resolution images are expected to begin arriving over the coming days, after InSight releases the clear-plastic dust covers that kept the optics of the spacecraft’s two cameras safe during landing.



Photo provided by NASA on Nov. 26, 2018 shows the first image taken by NASA's InSight lander on the surface of Mars after its landing. NASA's InSight spacecraft touched down safely on Mars on Monday, kicking off a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet. (Xinhua/NASA/JPL-CALTECH/IANS)

Washington, Dec 1 : Though NASA’s InSight landed safely on the surface of Mars, but the spacecraft sits about 4 degrees tilted, the US space agency said.

Early last week, InSight touched down on a lava plain named Elysium Planitia on the Red Planet.

The vehicle sits tilted slightly in a shallow dust-and sand-filled impact crater known as a “hollow”. But, InSight has been engineered to operate on a surface with an inclination up to 15 degrees, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

“The science team had been hoping to land in a sandy area with few rocks since we chose the landing site, so we couldn’t be happier,” said InSight project manager Tom Hoffman at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

“There are no landing pads or runways on Mars, so coming down in an area that is basically a large sandbox without any large rocks should make instrument deployment easier and provide a great place for our mole to start burrowing,” he added.

Rockiness and slope grade factor into landing safety and are also important in determining whether InSight can succeed in its mission after landing.

According to the team, rocks and slopes could affect InSight’s ability to place its heat-flow probe — also known as “the mole” or HP3 — and ultra-sensitive seismometer, known as SEIS, on the surface of Mars.

But, a preliminary assessment of the photographs taken so far of the landing area suggests the area in the immediate vicinity of the lander is populated by only a few rocks.

Higher-resolution images are expected to begin arriving over the coming days, after InSight releases the clear-plastic dust covers that kept the optics of the spacecraft’s two cameras safe during landing.

“We are looking forward to higher-definition pictures to confirm this preliminary assessment,” said JPL’s Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of InSight.

“If these few images – with resolution-reducing dust covers on – are accurate, it bodes well for both instrument deployment and the mole penetration of our subsurface heat-flow experiment.”

Data downlinked from the lander also indicate that during its first full day on Mars, the solar-powered InSight spacecraft generated more electrical power than any previous vehicle on the surface of Mars, NASA noted.

Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on May 5, InSight will operate on the surface for one Martian year plus 40 Martian days, or sols — the equivalent of nearly two Earth years. InSight will study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including Earth and the Moon, formed.


El Niño might upset monsoon this year: Report



Uttar Pradesh rain monsoon
Representative Image

New Delhi, March 16: El Nino may make a comeback this year to upset the expectations of a good monsoon, according to the latest report by the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

El Nino is a climate cycle formed in the Pacific Ocean with an impact on weather patterns across the globe. The cycle begins when warm water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean shifts eastward along the equator towards the coast of South America.

NOAA forecasters have said that there is a 60 per cent chance of El Niño conditions continuing through June to August in India.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD), however, maintained that neutral El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are prevailing at present, indicating weak El Niño formation.

“El Nino was supposed to start at the end of last year but it was wrongly predicted. Currently there is a very weak prevalence of El Niño. Some models suggest that it would retain for the next two to three months, and only thereafter it will weaken. Even at this stage it is weak,” D.S Pai, Scientist at IMD, Pune, told IANS.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Earth Sciences had said that there was no indication of El Nino developing and it wont have any impact on the upcoming monsoon.

“It is too early to talk about its impact on monsoon. May be around mid-April and May-end we will have a clear picture of El Nino’s prevalence,” Pai added.

El Nino forecasts, issued in December 2018 by the IMD for the January-February-March period this year, maintained that the Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs), which is the main indicator of the development of the phenomenon, would remain slightly warm over the central Pacific region.

Except for Kerala, all other sub-divisions in the southern peninsular regions — Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rayalaseema and South Interior Karnataka — received poor rainfall from October to December last year. The northeast monsoon ended up 44 per cent deficient, one of the driest in recent years.


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Gurugram artists create eye-opening art installations from plastic trash

“Where Does It Go” raises questions on the future of waste once it leaves our hands.



Where Does It Go

Gurugram, March 6 (IANS) “For one sip of water, we create permanent plastic junk,” artist Arunkumar H.G. remarked about 100-ml bottles that are part of our high-consumption lifestyle.

Sourced from households and schools, hundreds of them are crafted into his massive installation made entirely out of everyday plastic trash, that reminds citizens of the harmful and lasting carbon footprint small actions generate.

His installation “The Toxic Chamber”, a large cave-like structure with a huge mouth, is created out of waste like automobile parts, discarded plastic chairs, containers, PET bottles, and e-waste. A satire on how easily today’s consumers shirk responsibility of the vast waste generated, the “chamber” allows visitors to stand inside and reflect.

It is part of “Where Does It Go” project and stands with 10 smaller installations in a Municipal Corporation of Gurugram-owned open land near Wazirabad Bund here. The project is the first in line for GIPA (Gurgaon Interactive Public Art) initiative by citizen-led collective “Iamgurgaon” and Artpilgrim Live gallery.

“When we use plastic, we throw bit by bit. We don’t collect it, and we don’t see its enormity. Just imagine, this could be one person’s usage in just three-four years. For one sip of water, we are creating a permanent plastic junk.

“When we come and confront it closely is when we realise that we can’t separate it from us unless we change our habits,” Arunkumar told IANS during a walkthrough of the space.

The Karnataka-born artist, now a local of Gurugram, thinks of the chamber as a functional space where people can visualise what they throw away, and therefore begin to alter their behaviour.

After a waste collection drive in schools, homes and corporate house in February, he led a team of 12 local artists, who have been working on 10 smaller installations using the challenging medium of scrap.

Young artist Pinaki R. Mohanty’s work surrounded e-waste and waste pickers, mostly children, who segregate our waste under hazardous conditions from landfills.

Using sharp humour, Mohanty has depicted a life-like “garbage man” with a plastic detector — as compared to a metal detector — to communicate the need to segregate our waste in categories to reduce waste while providing waste pickers a safer work environment.

“We think and act in ‘yes’ and ‘no’ terms. When we have to throw an empty wrapper, we think ‘yes’ it should be dumped properly, but we actually do ‘no’ by littering when no one is looking. That understanding must be there,” he said.

Other installations are themed around waste impacting marine and land animals, who often ingest waste; a throne made of glass and plastic bottles, which shows that throwing waste is comfortable, but sitting on a waste throne is deeply discomforting; and a photo-frame made from CDs and waste.

Artist Ramkumar Kannadasan, who has a background in horticulture, has created a huge hand of plastic — “Steal The Treasure Of Nature” — that depicts landfills impinging upon the growth of trees planted on them.

“Where Does It Go” raises questions on the future of waste once it leaves our hands.

“The idea is to ‘feel the waste’ and how we can visualise the consequences of what each of us is generating in the city. When you see this, you realise it is not somebody else’s problem. It is also about how art can play a social and environmental role apart from being an aesthetic device.

“This is a very different approach. It is meaningful, and deeply connected to ecology and people. The installations are spaces of introspection, reflection and eventually, transformation through experience,” Iamgurgaon co-founder Swanzal Kak Kapoor told IANS.

The installations are now open for public viewing after their completion on Tuesday.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at [email protected])

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Amarinder revives dam project to curb water flow to Pakistan




Pathankot (Punjab), March 8 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday revived the vital Shahpur Kandi Dam project that has the potential to curb the water flow of rivers to Pakistan.

Addressing a gathering here, he said the Rs 2,073-crore project, construction on which is all set to restart, would reduce water flowing into Pakistan drastically and help save the critical water resources of the state.

The project has been revived with the Chief Minister’s personal efforts in order to resolve all pending issues with the Jammu and Kashmir government.

Of the estimated cost, which is in addition to the Rs 640 crore already spent till 2014, Rs 1,408 crore would be spent on the power component, with 100 per cent share of the Punjab government, and Rs 685 crore on the irrigation component, with a share of Rs 485 crore to be contributed by the Central government and Rs 179.28 crore by the state.

Announcing that the project would be completed within three years, the Chief Minister, said it would result in increased irrigation of 5,000 hectares across the state.

Apart from generating clean power, the project would also improve the irrigation potential of 1.18 lakh hectares of the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC), he added.

Power Minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar said the water currently flowing to Pakistan would be utilised by farmers in Punjab.

The Shahpur Kandi Dam Project is being constructed on River Ravi, 11 km downstream of Ranjit Sagar Dam Project and 7 km upstream of Madhopur Head Works.

During February 2008, the Central government declared the Shahpur Kandi Dam a ‘National Project’, along with 13 other projects.

With the dam earlier proposed to be completed by July 2017, construction work was on in full swing, but owing to the intervention of the Jammu and Kashmir government, the work was stopped on August 30, 2014, under the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act 2004.

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