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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft nears destruction

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Washington, Aug 30: Launched 20 years ago, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft now has less than 20 days for its mission-ending dive into the atmosphere of Saturn.

Its fateful plunge on September 15 is a foregone conclusion — an April 22 a gravitational kick from Saturn’s moon Titan placed the two-and-a-half ton vehicle on its path for impending destruction, NASA said.

“The Cassini mission has been packed full of scientific firsts, and our unique planetary revelations will continue to the very end of the mission as Cassini becomes Saturn’s first planetary probe, sampling Saturn’s atmosphere up until the last second,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“We’ll be sending data in near real time as we rush headlong into the atmosphere — it’s truly a first-of-its-kind event at Saturn,” Spilker said.

Cassini’s imaging camera will be off during this final descent, having taken a last look at the Saturn system the previous day, September 14.

The spacecraft is expected to lose radio contact with Earth within about one to two minutes after beginning its descent into Saturn’s upper atmosphere.

But on the way down, before contact is lost, eight of Cassini’s 12 science instruments will be operating.

In particular, the spacecraft’s ion and neutral mass spectrometer (INMS), which will be directly sampling the atmosphere’s composition, potentially returning insights into the giant planet’s formation and evolution.

On the day before the plunge, other Cassini instruments will make detailed, high-resolution observations of Saturn’s auroras, temperature and the vortices at the planet’s poles.

“The end of Cassini’s mission will be a poignant moment, but a fitting and very necessary completion of an astonishing journey,” said Earl Maize, Cassini Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. Launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004.

As Cassini completes its 13-year tour of Saturn, its Grand Finale — which began in April — and final plunge are just the last beat.

Following a four-year primary mission and a two-year extension, NASA approved an ambitious plan to extend Cassini’s service by an additional seven years.

Called the Cassini Solstice Mission, the extension saw Cassini perform dozens more flybys of Saturn’s moons as the spacecraft observed seasonal changes in the atmospheres of Saturn and Titan.

From the outset, the planned endgame for the Solstice Mission was to expend all of Cassini’s maneuvering propellant exploring, then eventually arriving in the ultra-close Grand Finale orbits, ending with safe disposal of the spacecraft in Saturn’s atmosphere.

“The Grand Finale represents the culmination of a seven-year plan to use the spacecraft’s remaining resources in the most scientifically productive way possible. By safely disposing off the spacecraft in Saturn’s atmosphere, we avoid any possibility Cassini could impact one of Saturn’s moons somewhere down the road, keeping them pristine for future exploration,” Maize added.

IANS

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India blaming us without probe: Pakistan

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Dr Mohammad Faisal

Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) Pakistan on Sunday told foreign envoys here that India was blaming it for a horrific suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir even without any investigation.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said this to diplomats from Africa and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states.

The Dawn newspaper quoted Janjua as saying that there was “a familiar pattern of India blaming Pakistan instantly after such incidents without any investigation”, Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said a “deliberate anti-Pakistan frenzy is being spurred in India” and warned that “baseless Indian allegations and aggressive rhetoric are counterproductive and a threat to regional peace”.

Islamabad’s statement came three days after the Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in Pulwama district that killed 49 troopers.

Pakistan said it had rejected India’s allegations of its complicity because they were “made within a short time from the attack and without carrying out any investigations.

“These knee-jerk and preconceived accusations were nevertheless consistent with well-rehearsed tactics from the Indian playbook after such incidents in the past,” the Foreign Office statement added.

“Bluster, belligerence and pursuit of expedient standards to suit internal political interests is both delusional and counterproductive.

“India must come out of the denial mode, end state repression against Kashmiri youth, address widespread alienation in (Jammu and Kashmir) and pursue the path of dialogue,” the statement said.

The Foreign Office also raised questions over India’s acceptance of a video released by the attacker claiming to have ties to the JeM, saying New Delhi had double standards.

“India needs to introspect and respond to questions about its security and intelligence lapses that led to this attack,” it said. “India owes an explanation on reports of (suicide bomber) Adil Ahmed Dar’s arrest and custody since 2017.”

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Counter-terrorism, energy security to top Indian agenda during Saudi Crown Prince visit

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Counter-terrorism, including Pakistans role in sponsoring terrorism against India, and energy security are likely to be on top of Indias agenda for discussion during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans visit starting on Tuesday.

India is expected to take up with the Saudi Crown Prince Pakistan’s role in the Pulwama terror attack that killed at least 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Jammu and Kashmir, informed sources said.

India has already started diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale briefing envoys of around two dozen nations including those of P-5 and South Asian nations about Pakistan’s footprint in the Pulwama attack.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to New Delhi Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saty has said that Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India presents a “historic opportunity” to expand collaboration in all sectors.

Moammed bin Salman is on a three-nation diplomatic tour to Pakistan, India and China.

He will be on a two-day visit to India staring February 19 and will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. He is visiting Pakistan before coming to India.

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India yet to tell us about MFN status withdrawal: Pakistan

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Abdul Razak Dawood Pakistan
Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser to the Pakistan's Prime Minister

Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) Pakistan said on Sunday that it has not yet been informed by India on withdrawing the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Islamabad in the wake of a bloody suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir.

Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser to the Pakistan’s Prime Minister on Commerce, said: “We are looking into the withdrawal of MFN status by India. We can speak to India about this issue.

“Pakistan can raise this issue at different forums including the World Trade Forum,” The Nation quoted him as saying.

A day after the terror attack on Thursday, India announced it was taking back the MFN status given to Pakistan in 1995.

The status means that a country will treat all World Trade Organisation member states equally in matters of tariffs on imports.

After withdrawing the MFN status, New Delhi imposed a 200 per cent import duty on all goods originating or exported from Pakistan.

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