Current Affairs - October 1-15, 2008 S&T

• Solar radiation: If tropical India were to convert just 1% of the 5,000 trillion kilowatt-hour

of solar radiation (or, simply, sunlight) it receives a year into energy, the country will have

enough to meet its energy needs-even in 2030-according to the national action plan on

climate change. “India’s focus till now has been in manufacturing and exports. More than

60% of PVs (photovoltaic cells produced in India is exported and the biggest market is

Europe. Waiting for approvals India’s semiconductor policy, announced by the ministry of

communications and information technology in 2007, has come as a big boost to

companies making photovoltaic cells. That’s because these cells are made from materials

that go into semiconductors. The policy gives 20% capital subsidy to units inside special

economic zones that make semiconductors and 25% to those outside.

• India enhances anti-submarine warfare capability: Even as Pakistan prides itself as the

first South Asian country to commission into service a diesel-electric submarine, PNS
Hamza, which has an air-independent propulsion system, India is on the threshold of

perfecting its indigenous state-of-the-art underwater surveillance mechanism as part of its

Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) programme. Nagan, the low frequency active-cum-passive

towed array sonar system developed by the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory

(NPOL), Kochi, Presently, the Navy operates passive only towed array sonar system from

Thales (France) onboard a few platforms such as INS Mumbai, a Delhi-class guided missile

destroyer. “Nagan marks a major technological breakthrough as it is capable of long-range


• Role reversal: India to launch French satellites: An agreement between Indian and French

space agencies will give India a larger play in the global satellite launch market, worth

$2billion annually. Astrium, the commercial arm of French space agency Centre National

d'etudes Spatiales (CNES) and a lead player in the commercial satellite launch industry

will outsource a large component of its business to Indian Space Research Organisation

(ISRO). The agreement is a role reversal for the French agency. For over 20 years, India

has been dependent on CNES for launching the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT)

communication satellites using its big Ariannespace boosters. (INSAT-1C was the first

Indian satellite to be launched by Ariannespace on July 21, 1988). Now, ISRO will launch

satellites for CNES, which will be at a cost advantage. The Indian agency's launch costs

are up to 35 per cent lower than those of countries like the US and Russia. "Although

India has signed MoUs with 25 countries, this Indo-French compact is the first cooperative

agreement," Every year, some 15 countries launch more than 1,600 satellites, but only six,

including India, have actual launch capabilities. India, however, is a marginal player in a

lucrative global market as the PSLV can only launch satellites that weigh up to 1,600 kg

and that, too, into low-earth orbits (200-2,000 km above earth's surface). ISRO is

speeding up the development of GSLV-Mark III, which will be able to launch 5-tonne

payloads into geo-stationary orbit.

• Ozone hole getting bigger by the year: Reports from the ESA (European Space Agency)

indicate that the ozone hole in 2008 is larger than last year. Ozone is a protective

atmospheric layer found in about 25 kilometers altitude that acts as a sunlight filter

shielding life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays, which can increase the risk of skin

cancer and cataracts and harm marine life. The depletion of ozone is caused by extreme

cold temperatures at high altitude and the presence of ozone-destructing gases in the

atmosphere such as chlorine and bromine, originating from man-made products like

chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol but

continue to linger in the atmosphere. This year, the area of the thinned ozone layer over

the South Pole reached about 27 million square kilometers, compared to 25 million square

kilometers in 2007 and a record ozone hole extension of 29 million square kilometers in

2006, which is about the size of the North American continent. Depending on the weather

conditions, the size the Antarctic ozone hole varies every year.

• Indian moon mission: On 22 October, India joins Japan and China in an all-Asian race

to explore the moon, even as the US, which put the first man on the moon in 1969, plans

to repeat the feat by 2020. That is the scheduled date for the launch of Chandrayaan-1,

India’s first moon mission. The spacecraft, fitted with 11 scientific instruments, including

five from the US, Sweden, Japan, Germany and Bulgaria, will also explore and identify

deposits of helium-3 or He-3, a clean nuclear fuel that can potentially solve all of the

world’s energy problems. The highly unstable He-3 is found in abundance on the moon.

India’s moon mission will follow that of Japan, which launched its Selene spacecraft in

September 2007, and China, which launched Chang’e-1 in October 2007. For Isro, which

has till now only sent a satellite up to 36,000km over earth, its first scientific mission is

also the toughest. The spacecraft needs to travel nearly 400,000km, and the mission will

test the agency’s expertise in rocket technology, guidance and navigation of the spacecraft.

Isro has built a deep space network, with a 32m antenna in Bangalore, to receive data

from the spacecraft. Data from the moon mission will also be received at the three deep
space complexes of the US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or Nasa,

which are located in California, Spain and Australia.

• Cervical cancer vaccine enters Indian market: Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD),

launched a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, the most common form of the condition in

India with more than 130,000 women diagnosed with it every year. The vaccine is the first

of its kind and has been approved by the US Food and Drugs Authority. The vaccine

Gardasil was launched in 2006 and is available in 108 countries. According to a World

Health Organisation study, the risk of the cancer in India is 2.4%compared with an

average of 1.3 % for the world.

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