About –the stories of the world this week, 11 December to 17 December: A Spacecraft comes home from around the Moon; war goes on; Border clashes between the world’s populous nations; a stunning breakthrough in science; and a story of true love.
This 11th December was a day of splashing and ballooning with joy: NASA’s Orion un-crewed test Spacecraft made a near perfect re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down, as plotted, in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja, California, near Guadalupe Island. Orion had travelled more than 2.25 million kilometres on a path around the Moon before returning home safely, after 25.5 days in space.
Prior to entering the Earth’s atmosphere, Orion’s crew module separated from its service module-a propulsive powerhouse provided by the European Space Agency. During re-entry Orion’s specially-designed heat-shield successfully withstood temperatures about half as hot as the surface of the Sun at 2,760 degrees Centigrade. Within 20 minutes, it slowed from nearly 40,234 kilometres per hour (kph) to 33 kph for its parachute-assisted splashdown into the Ocean. On landing, five orange coloured airbags sprang up to keep Orion floating upright in the water, until ‘help’ arrived.
The Artemis-I Moon Mission’s Scientists also tested out a tricky manoeuvre known as ‘skip-entry’, which is the first time it has been tried on a capsule built for carrying astronauts. It involves the spacecraft bouncing off the atmosphere and then dipping-in again, as a way both to reduce the force of gravity and to allow a more precise targeting of the landing site.
Recovery teams then worked in unison to pick-up Orion from the Ocean and haul it on to the waiting ship, USS Portland, and subsequently offloaded it at the US Naval Base, San Diego. Engineers will inspect the spacecraft’s windows before installing hard covers and deflating the airbags in preparation for the final leg of Orion’s journey, over land, to the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida for post-flight analysis.
Teams will then open the hatch and unload several payloads, including the test Manikins: Commander Moonikin, Campos, Helga, Zohar, the space biology experiments, the official flight kit and of course, Snoopy, the zero-gravity indicator. Next, the capsule and its heat shield will undergo testing and analysis over the course of several months to figure out how well Orion managed to survive outer space and the heat of re-entry.
Up next, in the year 2025, is ‘Moon Landing’, where NASA will get ready to send astronauts to explore more of the Moon as part of the Artemis program. NASA has selected Elon Musk’s SpaceX to develop the first commercial human lander, called the HLS Starship that will carry the next two American astronauts to the lunar surface. At least one of those astronauts will make history as the first woman on the Moon.
War and No-Peace
While Time magazine has named Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as its ‘Person of The Year’ for his stand-out leadership in fighting the illegal invasion of Russia, the war rages on.
Ukrainian forces have struck a headquarters of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group. A hotel where the group met in Kadiivka, Luhansk, had been hit causing major losses. Wagner are state-sponsored mercenaries who act in the Kremlin’s interests. It is a private military company, set up by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former restaurateur and close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly been accused of war crimes and human rights abuses.
Later this week, Ukraine’s air defences shot down nearly all missiles during one of Russia’s biggest attacks on the capital Kyiv.
Over the week, the attack by Russia has been relentless and they seem unmindful of the Christmas season.
A Border Clash, India – China
China and India share a disputed 3,440 km long de-facto border – called the Line of Actual Control, or LAC in the State of Arunachal Pradesh – which is poorly demarcated. The presence of rivers, lakes and snowcaps means the line can shift. The soldiers on either side often come face to face at many points. Tensions sometimes escalate into skirmishes. However, both China and India have been trying to rather ‘unsuccessfully’ de-escalate, since a major battle in June 2020 in the Galwan Valley in the Ladakh region. This is much further to the west – where 20 Indian soldiers and at least 43 Chinese soldiers were killed. That incident began as a skirmish and quickly escalated to fist-fighting and pushing.
Late last week, in a border clash between Chinese and Indian troops at the LAC in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, more than 200 troops of China, armed with spiked clubs, monkey fists, and tasers tried to intrude into India’s territory. Remember, using weapons is forbidden during a confrontation, based on an apparently ‘working India-China Border agreement’. They were thwarted by 50 of India’s Jawans and pushed back. The Army said that not an inch of Indian territory was given. China said that India transgressed into its territory, which is acknowledgement enough that India shoved them back.
The signs are ominous, with a hot-headed China trying to cook trouble and ‘noodle’ India.
A Revolutionary Breakthrough: Fission to Fusion
In a stunning breakthrough, in search of zero-carbon power, Scientists in the United States (US) have achieved the unimaginable feat of, creating more energy than was consumed, during an incredible fusion reaction. This is a revolutionary step towards cleaner and safer forms of renewable energy.
Scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), California achieved a mind-blowing 120% energy gain from atomic fusion.
Fusion, described as the ‘holy grail’ of energy production, is the same process that powers the sun and other stars across galaxies, which effects create a brilliant celestial display in our night sky. By forcing atoms together, instead of breaking them apart as standard nuclear reactors do, fusion offers clean energy without carbon dioxide pollution. In brief, it involves light atoms being smashed together to produce heavier ones, releasing vast amounts of energy in the process. It is the opposite of nuclear fission.
With the potential for unlimited electricity at a low cost and zero carbon emissions this could be one solution that might be a game changer and one of mankind’s most remarkable scientific triumphs to date.
Fission is the technology currently used in nuclear power stations, but the process also produces a lot of waste that continues to give out radiation for a long time. It can be dangerous and must be stored safely after use.
Nuclear fusion produces far more energy, and only small amounts of short-lived radioactive waste. And importantly, the process produces no greenhouse gas emissions and therefore does not contribute to climate change.
But one of the challenges is that forcing and keeping the elements together in fusion requires very large amounts of temperature and pressure. Until now, no experiment has managed to produce more energy than the amount put-in to make it work.
There is still a long way to go from demonstrating energy gain to getting to wall-plug efficiency where the energy coming from a fusion reactor exceeds its electrical energy input required to run the reactor.
We need to fission our minds to this fusion of the future. So much energy out there for the asking?
FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022: Kicking Around
The Football World Cup moved through the semi-finals stage with a line-up of Argentina versus Croatia, and France versus Morocco, to a ‘Giant Final’ of Argentina versus France.
If France wins it would be the first country in 60 years of the World Cup to retain the Title (having won it in the previous edition, 2018). If Argentina wins it would be a well -deserved crowing glory for one of the finest players of our times – Lionel Messi.
Earlier, England lost to France 2-1, despite ace striker Harry Kane equalling England’s scoring record with his 53rd goal. But his night ended in anguish when he missed a second spot-kick later in the game, which could have levelled the scores and taken England to a penalty shoot-out. Kane levelled Wayne Rooney’s mark with a second-half penalty in Qatar. He also missed a chance to surpass this record. The game of football can be cruel.
Meanwhile, the other semi-final entrant, Morocco made history becoming the first African team, and the first Arab side from a country with a Muslim majority, to reach a semi-final of a World Cup. They have defied expectations to reach this stage having topped a group including Croatia and Belgium, before beating Spain in the Round 16 and Portugal in the Quarter-Finals. Morocco’s success has been built around its steely defence and relentless work-rate. No opposition player has scored against Morocco so far in Qatar – they have conceded just once, an own goal against Canada. They have also been one of the most passionately supported teams during the tournament.
In the first semi-finals, Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 playing on the brilliance of Lionel Messi who score a penalty and made an assist. In the second, France convincingly beat Morocco 2-0. And Morocco finally conceded more than one goal and a chance of making more history!
Thus far, the Tournament has produced an unusual number of shocks relative to every tournament since 2002.
The Final Match unfolds on Sunday, 18 December and you can bet on Argentina or France to lift the cup.
Please Yourself: Love
Saying, ‘I love you’, is one of the toughest of things to tell a partner, purely from the mind – the ‘I’ comes first, from both sides – and freedom is at the heart.
English Author D H Lawrence’s, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ scandalized the literary world when it was first published because of this ‘freedom at the heart’, and stirring-up of sublime love.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published privately in 1928, in Italy, and in 1929, in France. An unexpurgated edition was published openly in the United Kingdom only in 1960, when it was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books, who won the case, and quickly sold three million copies. The book was also banned, for obscenity, in the US, Canada, Australia, India, and Japan. The book soon became notorious for its story of the absolutely frank portrayal of the physical and emotional relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex and its use of the then-unprintable four-letter words.
The plot is based on an affair between the young, married Lady Chatterley (Constance Reid – before marriage) and the also married gamekeeper of their Estate, Oliver Mellors, during a time when inter-class relationships were deemed socially unacceptable and divorce was only granted on proof of a matrimonial crime.
However, the main subject of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ is not the explicit sexuality, but the search for integrity and wholeness: key to which is cohesion between the mind and the body, for ‘body without mind is brutish; mind without body… is a running away from our double being’, said a commentator. The story focuses on the incoherence of living a life that is ‘all mind’, which D H Lawrence found to be particularly true among the young of the aristocratic classes in England of the hey days.
The contrast between mind and body can be seen in the dissatisfaction each character experiences in their previous relationships, such as Lady Chatterly’s lack of intimacy with her husband, who is ‘all mind’, and Mellors’s choice to live apart from his wife because of her ‘brutish’ sexual nature. The dissatisfactions lead them into a relationship that develops very slowly and is based upon tenderness, physical passion, and mutual respect. As the relationship between Lady Chatterley and Mellors builds, they learn more about the interrelation of the mind and the body. She learns that sex is more than a shameful and disappointing act, and he learns about the spiritual challenges that come from physical love.
Netflix’s adaption of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ tells this story of liberation and freedom and surprisingly through clothes- in addition to, without them. In the movie, Lady Chatterly’s clothing mirrors the emotions of her character-something you have to discover yourself – while she puts them on and pulls them off!
The new movie, directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, is largely faithful to the book, yet presents its characters and different themes-class division, female empowerment, sexual consciousness-with a depth and sensitivity that has rarely been afforded to Lawrence’s original work. There are plenty of steamy, lustful sex scenes, sure. But throughout the film, Lady Chatterley – played by Emma Corrin – and Oliver – played by Jack O’Connell – are shown as vulnerable, even fragile beings whose erotic connection is not merely a result of physical attraction, but of the desire to be happy and liberated from the confines of social expectations.
Corrin’s wardrobe is pivotal to highlighting that liberation and painting a fresh picture on the ever-popular story. I watched it over the weekend and fell in love with love, the movie…and the costumes.
In other movie News, Indian Film-maker SS Rajamouli’s period action film ‘RRR’ (Rise, Roar, Revolt) has risen, roared and scooped-up nominations in two categories at the upcoming Golden Globe Awards: Best Picture-Non-English and Best Original Song-Motion Picture.
RRR is a fictitious, impossible friendship between these two figures- a fearless revolutionary and an officer in the British Raj -of history as they team up and chart out an inspirational path to fight the forces of British colonialism in 1920s pre-independence India.
More roaring stories of war, love, and sport coming up in the weeks ahead. Fall in love and clothe yourself with World Inthavaaram.