Science Wrap: Chandrayaan updates, 62 new plants in Western Ghats and North Korea's satellite blunder

Shaurya ThapaJune 3, 2023 | 09:00 IST

This week in science saw new updates about ISRO's future missions and the discovery of 62 new plant species that can survive without water. Additionally, the world might soon get a disaster-prevention system that can detect Earth's disasters from outer space. Meanwhile, North Korea tried launching a satellite for the sixth time and failed again. 

1- ISRO chief reveals new information about Chandrayaan-3, Aditya-L1 and Gaganyaan 

In Day 2 of the India Today Conclave South on June 2, ISRO’s current chief S Somnath offered some major revelations on the space agency’s upcoming operations. When it comes to the manned mission Gaganyaan, Somnath said that even though he’s absolutely confident about the mission’s success, the agency still has to reach the stage of perfection. It’s for this reason he hasn’t offered a date yet. 

ALSO READ: What you need to know about India's Rs 10,000 crore space mission Gaganyaan

Somnath is confident about the safety of the rockets that will be involved. However, the ground crew’s priority is to “perfect the Crew Escape System”, something that ISRO is currently working on. 

As for the lunar mission Chandrayaan-3, Somnath mentioned that ISRO is eyeing a July launch window. As for the solar mission Aditya L-1, August is expected to offer a launch date. 

Even though Chandrayaan-2 failed to reach the moon’s orbit, Somnath is optimistic about the upcoming trip to the moon. 

"We had a failure of the mission but the orbiter is there doing measurements and giving us data. We took pains to understand what went wrong and understand what the problem was. It was an error in the software."

As for Aditya-L1, the mission will carry seven payloads to observe layers of the Sun like the photosphere. Somnath hopes that the findings will help in predicting how and when solar eruptions can strike Earth. 

2- 62 new plant species found in Western Ghats (and they can all survive without water)

Nestled in the Western Ghats, biologists have come across 62 new plant species that can survive extremely dry conditions. The plants are Desiccation-Tolerant (DT) Vascular Species AKA plants that can survive under extreme water deprivation.

Corallodiscus lanuginosus, one of the discovered DT plants (photo-Department of Science and Technology)

This species are noted for going dormant and then awakening when water becomes available again. According to the researchers, the newly discovered plants could play a wide range of roles in agriculture, particularly in locations where water is scarce.

The discovery was made by researchers of Pune’s Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) who later published their findings in the Nordic Journal of Botany. 

As for where these DT plants can be found, the team led by Dr. Mandar Datar mentioned that they can be found in the Ghats’ rock outcrops and tree trunks. 

Western Ghats (photo-Unsplash)

3- New monitoring system Guardian can help detect disasters on Earth from outer space 

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are testing a novel monitoring system that could detect tsunamis from above the planet. It's known as Guardian.

Guardian, short for Global Navigation Satellite System Upper Atmospheric Real-time Disaster Information and Alert Network, is an experimental monitoring system that uses data from GPS and other navigation satellites circling Earth to provide real-time positioning precision down to a few inches.

Guardian is currently being tested in the Pacific Ocean’s geologically tumultuous region known as Ring of Fire where 78% of the tsunamis from 1900 to 2015 occurred. 

The system's near-real-time output must be analysed by experts trained to detect tsunami warning indicators. However, it is already one of the fastest monitoring tools of its sort. According to the team working on the device, it can provide a kind of picture of a tsunami's rumble reaching the ionosphere in 10 minutes.

4- North Korea’s sixth attempt to launch a satellite fails (again)

The militaristic dictatorship of North Korea has attempted to launch a spy satellite in orbit several times in the past. Since 2016, there haven’t been any satellite launches for the nuclear state but it planned to finally oversee a successful launch on June 1. 

The mission failed yet again as the Chollima-1 satellite launch rocket faced instability in the engine and fuel system. As a result of the engine failure, the rocket system’s booster and payload plunged into the sea. It seems that parts of the space launch vehicle also landed in neighbouring South Korea with the latter too conducting a salvage operation. 

The failure is also being attributed to the launch being heavily rushed in response to South Korea’s recent blastoff of the Nuri rocket that launched a handful of small satellites to orbit on May 25, 2023.

Last updated: June 03, 2023 | 09:00
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