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China's Yutu 2 rover spots 'mystery hut' on far side of Moon

Beijing, Dec 5 (IANS) China’s Yutu 2 rover has spotted a mystery object on the horizon while working its way across Von Karman crater on the far side of the moon, media reports said.

Yutu 2 spotted a cube-shaped object on the horizon to the north and roughly 80 metres away in November during the mission’s 36th lunar day, according to a Yutu 2 diary published by Our Space, a Chinese language science outreach channel affiliated with the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Space.com reported.

A likely explanation for the shape would be a large boulder which has been excavated by an impact event, the report said. Our Space referred to the object as a “mystery hut”, but this a placeholder name rather than an accurate description.

Yutu 2 is expected to spend the next 2-3 lunar days (2-3 Earth months) traversing lunar regolith and avoiding craters to get a closer look, so updates can be expected.

The Chang’e 4 lander carrying the Yutu 2 rover touched down in Von Karman Crater on January 2, 2019 and in SeptemberA the solar-powered rover completed the 1,000-days mark on the Moon.

The rover has also rolled through the 186 kilometre Von Karman crater.

Chang’e 4, like its name suggests, is China’s fourth moon mission and second to deliver a rover on the moon. The Chang’e 1 and 2 missions were orbiters, with Chang’e 3 landing on the near side of the moon with the first Yutu rover. China has also launched the Chang’e 5 T1 test mission around the moon and the Chang’e 5 moon sample return mission, the report said.

–IANS

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China's Yutu 2 rover spots 'mystery hut' on far side of Moon

Beijing, Dec 5 (IANS) China’s Yutu 2 rover has spotted a mystery object on the horizon while working its way across Von Karman crater on the far side of the moon, media reports said.

Yutu 2 spotted a cube-shaped object on the horizon to the north and roughly 80 metres away in November during the mission’s 36th lunar day, according to a Yutu 2 diary published by Our Space, a Chinese language science outreach channel affiliated with the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Space.com reported.

A likely explanation for the shape would be a large boulder which has been excavated by an impact event, the report said. Our Space referred to the object as a “mystery hut”, but this a placeholder name rather than an accurate description.

Yutu 2 is expected to spend the next 2-3 lunar days (2-3 Earth months) traversing lunar regolith and avoiding craters to get a closer look, so updates can be expected.

The Chang’e 4 lander carrying the Yutu 2 rover touched down in Von Karman Crater on January 2, 2019 and in SeptemberA the solar-powered rover completed the 1,000-days mark on the Moon.

The rover has also rolled through the 186 kilometre Von Karman crater.

Chang’e 4, like its name suggests, is China’s fourth moon mission and second to deliver a rover on the moon. The Chang’e 1 and 2 missions were orbiters, with Chang’e 3 landing on the near side of the moon with the first Yutu rover. China has also launched the Chang’e 5 T1 test mission around the moon and the Chang’e 5 moon sample return mission, the report said.

–IANS

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Ocean resources key to India's future economy: Jitendra Singh

New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) Stating that marine minerals from coastal and ocean resources will be key to India’s future economy, Union Science and Technology Minister, Dr Jitendra Singh on Sunday said metals such as nickel and cobalt play an important role in promoting renewable energy technologies needed to fight the climate change challenges.

Steps are being taken for close coordination and collaboration between Institute of Minerals & Materials Technology (IIMT) and National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai (NIOT) for accelerated progress in developing India’s blue economy and harnessing its ocean resources, he said after inaugurating the new building facilities at the CSIR-IMMT at Bhubaneswar.

“Efforts are on for development of suitable technologies for effective mining of some of the deep-sea mineral resources and exploitation of gas hydrates resources,” he said, according to a release from the Ministry of Science & Technology.

Asserting that India has emerged as one of the frontline nations in marine scientific research and now actively engaged in exploring the resourceful ocean bed for meeting the country’s future energy and metal demands, he said: “The ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ initiated by the Modi government heralds yet another horizon to various resources to enrich the ‘Blue Economy’.”

The Common Research and Technology Development Hub (CRTDH) has been established at CSIR-IMMT by the joint effort of the CSIR-IMMT and the Ministry’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in order to provide, technological solution, to mentor entrepreneurs/start-ups, alongside facilitating incubation of start-ups.

Its primary objective is to nurture and promote innovations in MSMEs and provide them R&D or knowledge-based support in the area of new materials and chemical processes, the release added.

–IANS

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Ocean resources key to India's future economy: Jitendra Singh

New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) Stating that marine minerals from coastal and ocean resources will be key to India’s future economy, Union Science and Technology Minister, Dr Jitendra Singh on Sunday said metals such as nickel and cobalt play an important role in promoting renewable energy technologies needed to fight the climate change challenges.

Steps are being taken for close coordination and collaboration between Institute of Minerals & Materials Technology (IIMT) and National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai (NIOT) for accelerated progress in developing India’s blue economy and harnessing its ocean resources, he said after inaugurating the new building facilities at the CSIR-IMMT at Bhubaneswar.

“Efforts are on for development of suitable technologies for effective mining of some of the deep-sea mineral resources and exploitation of gas hydrates resources,” he said, according to a release from the Ministry of Science & Technology.

Asserting that India has emerged as one of the frontline nations in marine scientific research and now actively engaged in exploring the resourceful ocean bed for meeting the country’s future energy and metal demands, he said: “The ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ initiated by the Modi government heralds yet another horizon to various resources to enrich the ‘Blue Economy’.”

The Common Research and Technology Development Hub (CRTDH) has been established at CSIR-IMMT by the joint effort of the CSIR-IMMT and the Ministry’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in order to provide, technological solution, to mentor entrepreneurs/start-ups, alongside facilitating incubation of start-ups.

Its primary objective is to nurture and promote innovations in MSMEs and provide them R&D or knowledge-based support in the area of new materials and chemical processes, the release added.

–IANS

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After BrahMos, IIT-M alum and former TT champ eyes defence satellites

By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chennai, Dec 5 (IANS) It has been a three-decade grind for the former table tennis champion and Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IITM) graduate Srinivasagopalan Rangarajan to lift his company Data Patterns (India) Ltd, whose prestige projects include the BrahMos missile programme, to the point of inflexion.

“With an order book position of about Rs 588 crore, the company is now at an inflexion point with the country’s defence, aerospace and other strategic sectors having opened up,” 63-year old Rangarajan, Chairman and Managing Director told IANS.

The about Rs 224 crore turnover Data Patterns is a defence and aerospace electronics company that designs and manufactures radars, underwater electronics/communications/ other systems, electronic warfare suite, small satellites and others.

“We have built small satellites and are looking at the defence satellite sector. There is a need for a lot of small defence satellites for India. There is latent demand for small satellites. The Indian space sector is being opened up which augurs well for companies like us,” Rangarajan said.

Apart from small satellites, Indian space agency’s deep space mission, ground stations, and other projects offer good business prospects for testing equipment makers.

It was Data Patterns that designed and developed the second launch pad countdown system for delivery to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Rangarajan is ably assisted by his wife and Whole Time Director Rekha Murthy Rangarajan – it won’t be wrong to describe them as a missile firing couple – as Data Patterns is the supplier of the launch and fire control system for Brahmos missile programme.

“The business was started way back with his provident fund money of about Rs 11,000. Earlier he was employed in a private company,” Rekha Murthy Rangarajan told IANS.

The company caters to the country’s strategic sectors – defence (air force, navy and army), aerospace-Indian space sector-since early 1990s and now planning to go global with its products.

A former Tamil Nadu table tennis champion and representing the state in the nationals, Rangarajan holds a Master’s Degree in Science from the IITM and a Bachelor’s Degree of Technology in Chemical Engineering from the Faculty of Technology, University of Madras.

“Our major product groups consist of radars, underwater electronics/communications/ other systems, electronic warfare suite, BrahMos programme, avionics, small satellites, commercial off the shelf products and others,” Rangarajan said.

“We are a vertically integrated defence and aerospace electronics solutions provider. We do end to end electronics products for strategic sectors, he added.

Rangarajan said the company will be bidding for tenders issued by the Ministry of Defence which will be relatively big one and compete with the industry biggies.

The other area of focus for the 700 plus headcount company will be the services business, he added.

According to him, there is a structural shift in the defence budget with increased allocation for modernisation funds, and approval of non-relapsable fund. The fund available to the defence industry participants during fiscal 2022 to fiscal 2031 is estimated at $339 billion.

He said the company is in the process of getting its next generation Radar Warning Receiver (‘RWR’) approved which could then become a part of India’s light combat aircraft (LCA), and other upgrade programmes such as SU-30 MKI.

Similarly with India’s decision to acquire about 110 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft and trainer aircrafts offers big revenue opportunities for Indian companies like Data Patterns.

The initial public offer (IPO) bound company is also likely to deliver Next Gen completely wide open for LCA Mk IA and Sukhoi 30 platforms subject to flight testing. After flight testing, these can be fitted on the 83 LCA MK IA on order as well as the Sukhoi 30 upgrades (approximately 270 numbers), attack helicopters and others.

The flight tests are planned in the next two/three months on the LCA, and similar tests are planned on Sukhoi 30 later.

About IITM and its influence on him as an entrepreneur, Rangarajan said: “It gave me the business and management perspective. The engineer in me prodded me to make products.”

“The lectures of Professor Anantharaman gave me confidence. He made us give lectures which in turn increased my confidence levels,” he recalled.

Data Patterns will soon hit the market to raise Rs 300 crore from fresh issue of shares for business expansion. There will also be an offer for sale by the existing shareholders to the tune of 60,70,675 shares.

“The market has opened up. Offering new prospects and challenges. We would like to take the company to the next level and also look at export markets,” Ragarajan said.

(V.Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

–IANS

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Border bans due to Omicron variant 'too late': Scientists

Hong Kong, Dec 5 (IANS) While more than 50 countries have stepped up border controls in the wake of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, but scientists say travel restrictions have come too late and could even slow studies of the new super mutant.

The team of scientists said restrictions — especially those targeting only travellers from a handful of countries — are unlikely to keep Omicron out, and come at significant cost to the countries concerned, Nature reported.

The travel bans also risk slowing down urgent research on Omicron, by limiting the arrival of imported lab supplies.

“I’m not that optimistic that the way in which these measures are being rolled out right now will have an impact,” Karen Grepin, a health economist at the University of Hong Kong, was quoted as saying.

“It’s too late. The variant is circulating globally,” added Kelley Lee, who studies global health at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada.

Most travel bans target South Africa, which raised the alarm about Omicron on 24 November, and Botswana, which also reported early cases.

Many nations are also banning visitors from neighbouring Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

Researchers said border restrictions might deter nations from alerting the world to future variants. They will also slow down urgent research, because few planes carrying cargo — including lab supplies needed for sequencing — are now arriving in South Africa, the report said.

Several researchers are racing to understand how Omicron’s transmissibility and ability to evade immunity created by vaccines differ from those of pre-existing variants of SARS CoV-2. They’re also investigating the relative severity of the illness Omicron causes.

“The travel ban will paradoxically affect the speed at which scientists are able to investigate,” Shabir Madhi, from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, was quoted as saying.

While restrictions are most effective when they are implemented rapidly, the Omicron-related border closures were too late, Grepin said, as researchers might also struggle to share samples with global collaborators, the report said.

The variant has now been detected in nearly 38 countries, including India, US, the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, and Japan. Some nations acquired the infection even before South Africa reported the variant to the WHO. “As soon as countries start looking for it, they’re finding it, so the advantage of time is probably gone,” Grepin said.

Restrictions are also probably most effective at slowing the number of initial cases in a country when they reduce the total volume of international arrivals, rather than when they pick and choose specific countries, the researchers said.

Border-control measures should be used alongside efforts to strengthen public-health interventions such as social distancing, mask wearing and vaccination, said Grepin, because genomic studies have shown that cases will eventually slip through.

–IANS

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Border bans due to Omicron variant 'too late': Scientists

Hong Kong, Dec 5 (IANS) While more than 50 countries have stepped up border controls in the wake of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, but scientists say travel restrictions have come too late and could even slow studies of the new super mutant.

The team of scientists said restrictions — especially those targeting only travellers from a handful of countries — are unlikely to keep Omicron out, and come at significant cost to the countries concerned, Nature reported.

The travel bans also risk slowing down urgent research on Omicron, by limiting the arrival of imported lab supplies.

“I’m not that optimistic that the way in which these measures are being rolled out right now will have an impact,” Karen Grepin, a health economist at the University of Hong Kong, was quoted as saying.

“It’s too late. The variant is circulating globally,” added Kelley Lee, who studies global health at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada.

Most travel bans target South Africa, which raised the alarm about Omicron on 24 November, and Botswana, which also reported early cases.

Many nations are also banning visitors from neighbouring Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

Researchers said border restrictions might deter nations from alerting the world to future variants. They will also slow down urgent research, because few planes carrying cargo — including lab supplies needed for sequencing — are now arriving in South Africa, the report said.

Several researchers are racing to understand how Omicron’s transmissibility and ability to evade immunity created by vaccines differ from those of pre-existing variants of SARS CoV-2. They’re also investigating the relative severity of the illness Omicron causes.

“The travel ban will paradoxically affect the speed at which scientists are able to investigate,” Shabir Madhi, from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, was quoted as saying.

While restrictions are most effective when they are implemented rapidly, the Omicron-related border closures were too late, Grepin said, as researchers might also struggle to share samples with global collaborators, the report said.

The variant has now been detected in nearly 38 countries, including India, US, the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, and Japan. Some nations acquired the infection even before South Africa reported the variant to the WHO. “As soon as countries start looking for it, they’re finding it, so the advantage of time is probably gone,” Grepin said.

Restrictions are also probably most effective at slowing the number of initial cases in a country when they reduce the total volume of international arrivals, rather than when they pick and choose specific countries, the researchers said.

Border-control measures should be used alongside efforts to strengthen public-health interventions such as social distancing, mask wearing and vaccination, said Grepin, because genomic studies have shown that cases will eventually slip through.

–IANS

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‘Mother Song’ from Ajith Kumar’s ‘Valimai’ garners 113,000 likes in just 30 mins

The lyric video of the ‘Mother Song’, the second single from actor Ajith Kumar’s eagerly awaited upcoming film ‘Valimai’, has garnered a whopping 113,000 likes on YouTube, within a matter of just 30 minutes of being released on Sunday.

The song, which has lyrics by director Vignesh Shivan and music by Yuvan Shankar Raja, has been rendered by Sid Sriram.

The video received over 283,000 views in about half an hour of its release.

The emotional number, which celebrates mothers, underlines the significance a mother holds in the life of a child.

The film, directed by H Vinoth, is among the most expected films of next year. Produced by Boney Kapoor and Zee Studios, the film has Nirav Shah as its cinematographer and Kadhir as its art director.

Seaweed may help stop Covid virus from infecting human cells: Study

Jerusalem, Dec 5 (IANS) A substance extracted from edible marine algae may help stop the spread of coronavirus, according to a study.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) said ulvan, the major water-soluble polysaccharide extracted from the cell wall of green seaweed, could help stop coronavirus from infecting human cells, Jerusalem Post reported.

“The lack of access to vaccines takes the lives of many victims and even accelerates the creation of new variants,” said TAU’s Prof. Alexander Golberg.

“The study is still in its early stages, but we hope that the discovery will be used in the future to develop an accessible and effective drug, preventing infection with the coronavirus. Our findings at this stage arouse cautious optimism,” he added in the study published in PeerJ — a peer-reviewed science journal.

Because other research showed that certain seaweed compounds had antiviral properties, the team decided they wanted to evaluate them against Covid.

They then decided to test ulvan because it could be extracted from common seaweed.

“Ulvan is extracted from marine algae called Ulva, which is also called ‘sea lettuce’, and is food in places like Japan, New Zealand and Hawaii,” Golberg said. “It has previously been reported that ulvan is effective against viruses in agriculture and also against some of the human viruses – and when coronavirus arrived, we asked to test its activity.”

They grew Ulva algae, extracted the ulvan from it and sent it to the Southern Research Institute in Alabama. There, the US team built a cellular model to assess the activity of the substance produced in Golberg’s laboratory.

The cells were exposed to both the coronavirus and to ulvan. It was found that, in the presence of ulvan, the coronavirus did not infect cells. “In other words,” he said, “ulvan prevents the cells from being infected with coronavirus.”

He stressed that the best thing would be to vaccinate the world. However, it has become clear that this is unlikely to happen — at least quickly.

“As long as billions in the low-income world do not have access to the vaccinea the virus is expected to develop more and more variants, which may be resistant to vaccines – and the war against the coronavirus will continue,” Golberg said. “For this reason, it is very important, for the sake of all mankind, to find a cheap and accessible solution that will suit even economically weak populations in developing countries.”

–IANS

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Seaweed may help stop Covid virus from infecting human cells: Study

Jerusalem, Dec 5 (IANS) A substance extracted from edible marine algae may help stop the spread of coronavirus, according to a study.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) said ulvan, the major water-soluble polysaccharide extracted from the cell wall of green seaweed, could help stop coronavirus from infecting human cells, Jerusalem Post reported.

“The lack of access to vaccines takes the lives of many victims and even accelerates the creation of new variants,” said TAU’s Prof. Alexander Golberg.

“The study is still in its early stages, but we hope that the discovery will be used in the future to develop an accessible and effective drug, preventing infection with the coronavirus. Our findings at this stage arouse cautious optimism,” he added in the study published in PeerJ — a peer-reviewed science journal.

Because other research showed that certain seaweed compounds had antiviral properties, the team decided they wanted to evaluate them against Covid.

They then decided to test ulvan because it could be extracted from common seaweed.

“Ulvan is extracted from marine algae called Ulva, which is also called ‘sea lettuce’, and is food in places like Japan, New Zealand and Hawaii,” Golberg said. “It has previously been reported that ulvan is effective against viruses in agriculture and also against some of the human viruses – and when coronavirus arrived, we asked to test its activity.”

They grew Ulva algae, extracted the ulvan from it and sent it to the Southern Research Institute in Alabama. There, the US team built a cellular model to assess the activity of the substance produced in Golberg’s laboratory.

The cells were exposed to both the coronavirus and to ulvan. It was found that, in the presence of ulvan, the coronavirus did not infect cells. “In other words,” he said, “ulvan prevents the cells from being infected with coronavirus.”

He stressed that the best thing would be to vaccinate the world. However, it has become clear that this is unlikely to happen — at least quickly.

“As long as billions in the low-income world do not have access to the vaccinea the virus is expected to develop more and more variants, which may be resistant to vaccines – and the war against the coronavirus will continue,” Golberg said. “For this reason, it is very important, for the sake of all mankind, to find a cheap and accessible solution that will suit even economically weak populations in developing countries.”

–IANS

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