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Science & Technology Current
Science & Technology Current Affairs September 5th Week 2017
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Science & Technology Current Affairs September 5th Week 2017

1. ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission completes 3 years in orbit.

India’s rendezvous with the red planet continues as its celebrated Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) completes three years in orbit.

“As the country’s low-cost Mars Orbiter Mission completes three years in its Martian orbit, the satellite is in good health and continues to work as expected,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

The scientific analysis of the data received from the Mars Orbiter spacecraft is in progress, ISRO public relations director Deviprasad Karnik told PTI.

The country had on 24 September 2014 successfully placed the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft in the orbit around the red planet, in its very first attempt, thus breaking into an elite club. ISRO had launched the spacecraft on its nine-month-long odyssey on a homegrown PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on 5 November 2013. It had escaped the earth’s gravitational field on 1 December 2013.

On the occasion of completion of three years of MOM in its Martian orbit on 24 September 2017, the space body on Monday released MOM second year science data from 24 September 2014 to 23 September 2016.

The space agency had earlier launched MOM announcement of opportunity (AO) programmes for researchers in the country to use MOM data for research and development. Citing surplus fuel, ISRO had in March 2015 announced that the spacecraft’s life had been extended for another six months.

Later in June 2015, its chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar had said it had enough fuel for it to last “many years”. The Rs450-crore MOM mission aims at studying the Martian surface and mineral composition as well as scan its atmosphere for methane (an indicator of life on Mars).

The Mars Orbiter has five scientific instruments—Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA), Mars Colour Camera (MCC) and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS).

The Mars Colour Camera, one of the scientific payloads onboard MOM, has produced more than 715 images so far, ISRO had said. During its journey so far, the mission went through a communication ‘blackout’ as a result of solar conjunction from 2 June 2015 to 2 July 2015.

It had also experienced the ‘whiteout’ geometry phenomenon (when earth is between the sun and Mars and too much solar radiation makes it impossible to communicate with the earth) from 18 May to 30 May 2016.

An orbital manoeuvre was also performed on MOM spacecraft to avoid the impending long eclipse duration for the satellite, ISRO said. The government had in November last said the space organisation was seeking scientific proposals for Mars Orbiter Mission-2 to expand inter-planetary research.
 
2. Twitter Announces Test Project Allowing Tweets to be Expanded From 140 to 280 Characters.
Twitter Announces Test Project Allowing Tweets to be Expanded From 140 to 280 Characters
Twitter has announced a test project allowing tweets to be expanded to 280 characters —— double the existing limit —— in the latest effort to boost flagging growth at the social network.

San Francisco-based Twitter said the new limit, a major shift for the messaging platform known for its 140-character tweets, aims to address “a major cause of frustration” for many users.

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey fired off what may be one of the first expanded tweets.

“This is a small change, but a big move for us,” he wrote. “140 was an arbitrary choice... Proud of how thoughtful the team has been in solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet.”

A “small group” of users will see the new limits before Twitter decides on rolling out the changes more broadly, the company said.

“Trying to cram your thoughts into a tweet — we’ve all been there, and it’s a pain,” product manager Aliza Rosen and software engineer Ikuhiro Ihara said in a blog post.

“We’re doing something new: we’re going to try out a longer limit, 280 characters, in languages impacted by cramming.”

Twitter planned to leave the old limit in place for tweets in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean because internal data showed written characters in those languages packed plenty into the alloted space.

“Our research shows us that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in English, but it is not for those tweeting in Japanese,” Rosen and Ihara said.

“Also, in all markets, when people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people tweeting.”

Twitter, which became a public company in 2013, has never reported a profit even though it has built a loyal base of celebrities, journalists and political figures, including prolific tweeter US President Donald Trump.

In its most recent quarter, Twitter reported its base of monthly active users was unchanged at 328 million compared to the first three months of the year and up just five per cent from a year earlier.
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Its growth has failed to keep pace with the social network leader Facebook, which has some two billion users, and Facebook-owned Instagram, with 800 million.

“We’re hoping fewer tweets run into the character limit, which should make it easier for everyone to tweet,” Rosen and Ihara said in the blog post.

“We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters... But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.”

Twitter has been seeking to draw in users by offering more video including live streaming of sporting events, aiming to broaden its appeal.

The messaging platform reported a net loss of $116 million in the second quarter, slightly wider than its $107 million loss a year ago.

It remained an open question whether the new tweet limit would ignite the growth an engagement Twitter needs to compete in the fast-moving social media segment.

“The more they expand, the more they start looking like Facebook,” Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle said of Twitter.

“And if they start looking like Facebook, then Facebook will take them out and has the war-chest for it.”

The move by Twitter could also be rendered moot by lifestyle changes brought about by trends in voice-commanded digital assistants and looking at the world through mixed- reality glasses, said Gartner analyst Brian Blau.

“What are tweets in those worlds?” Blau said. “We see Twitter sort of struggling to get this business right while everyone else is moving in a another direction.”
 
3. Russia and US Partner to Build 1st Ever Space Station Near Moon.
Russia and US Partner to Build 1st Ever Space Station Near Moon
Russia and the United States have agreed to cooperate on a Nasa-led programme to build the first lunar space station, part of a long-term project to send humans to Mars.

The US space agency said earlier this year that it was exploring a programme called the Deep Space Gateway, a multi-stage project to push further into the solar system.

The project envisages building a crew-tended spaceport in lunar orbit that would serve as a “gateway to deep space and the lunar surface,” Nasa has said. 

Nasa has been far from coy in its ambitions to send humans to orbit Mars by the 2030s, and subsequent plans to colonise of the red planet. But plans to return to the moon have waxed and waned with the US administration. 

While George W Bush was keen to see humans on the moon again by 2020, Barack Obama ditched the plan and focused on plans to visit Mars, including a mission to test the necessary technology by capturing a boulder from the surface of an asteroid and bringing it into lunar orbit. 

Now, it seems, it’s all change again. With the Trump administration, asteroid missions have fallen from favour: with a spaceport orbiting the moon, crewed visits to the lunar surface are once again on the menu.

On Wednesday the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced that a cooperation agreement had been signed at an astronautical congress in Adelaide.

“The partners intend to develop international technical standards which will be used later, in particular to create a space station in lunar orbit,” the Russian agency said in a statement.

The Russians and Americans would cooperate to build the systems needed to organise scientific missions in lunar orbit and to the surface of the moon, the agency added.

“Roscosmos and Nasa have already agreed on standards for a docking unit of the future station. Taking into account the country’s extensive experience in developing docking units, the station’s future elements will be created using Russian designs.”
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Igor Komarov, Roscosmos’s general director, said no fewer than five countries were building their own rockets and systems.

“To avoid future problems over technical cooperation, part of the standards should be unified – for a possibility for various countries to work on their craft and dock to the international lunar station,” Komarov was quoted as saying in the statement.

Russia and the United States also discussed using Moscow’s Proton-M and Angara rockets to help create the infrastructure of the lunar spaceport, the statement said, adding that the main works were scheduled to begin in the mid-2020s.

Space exploration – including joint work on the International Space Station (ISS) – is one of the few areas where international cooperation between Russia and the US has not been marred by tensions over Ukraine and Syria.

The $100bn ISS, which has been orbiting Earth at about 17,000mph per hour since 1998, is the world’s largest space project. 


 

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