About –the stories of the world this week, 13 November to 19 November: The United States counts, Iran protests fester, India bleeds, G20 meets, mission to the moon, India’s private sector enters Space, and a sequel to a blockbuster movie.
After the counting in the United States (US) Midterm Elections cantered along -on horseback -over the darkness of last week, the results are finally seeing cracks of dawn and spilling over to this week. With all its advancement, the US takes an awful lot of time to draw its guns and get the votes counted. I reckon Americans can sling a rocket to the Moon and back before ‘em votes are shot down.
The Blue Democrats retained control of the Senate (total 100 seats) with 50 seats to the Red Republicans’ 49. This was made possible by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto who was re-elected in the State of Nevada with a ‘hour-glass margin’ of over 6000 votes. A win is a win. A run-off in the State of Georgia December later this year could take the tally to 51-49.
In the House (total 435 seats), the Republicans gained control, just managing to obtain a majority -218 seats against the Democrats’ 210 seats. President Joe Biden may stumble to get Bills passed over the remaining two years of his Presidency.
The nationwide protests in Iran, against the draconian Islamic Dress Code for woman fires on. Iran is facing one of its biggest and most unprecedented shows of dissent and defiance following the death-in-custody of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman detained by the morality police for not wearing her hijab properly.
A Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO (IHRNGO) group claims that Iranian security forces have killed at least 326 people since the protests erupted two months ago. It includes 43 children and 25 women, and the number is an ‘absolute minimum’.
Meanwhile, an Iranian court has issued the first death sentence linked to recent protests, convicting an unnamed person of ‘enmity against God’ and ‘spreading corruption on Earth’. Iran’s Revolutionary Court issued the sentence to a protester who set fire to a government building. Now, some fear that more than 1000 others who have been arrested could face similar charges, potentially carrying the death sentence.
It was a bloody week in India, bleeding with news on two counts.
One, the killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were ordered to be released by the Supreme Court of India. This after being found guilty, sentenced to death, then commuted to life, and now freed.I guess you can just about do anything in India and get away with it?
Recall, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in May 1991 by a suicide bomber belonging to the Tamil separatist organisation, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during an Election meeting in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. 16 other people died and about 43 were injured in the bombing on that fateful day. In one of the best known manhunts in India’s history and successful tracking-down of the perpetrators, those involved were either killed or caught, arrested, and successfully convicted.
The release of the convicts followed unbelievable, hyperactive rallying by Political Parties in the State of Tamilnadu-mainly the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). They competed with one another in getting them released, on the ground of being Tamilians and unconscionably pandering to Tamil sentiment. And of course, the Court garnishes the reasons with the ‘mandatory’ good-behaviour in Jail.
I was devastated by the release of convicts who killed a Prime Minister of the Country in a carefully executed macabre plot. And consider it a global disgrace. The Supreme Courts in all its sagacity has probably weakened the country. The guilt of the released convicts in the brutal assassination Rajiv Gandhi and many others who were killed, for no fault of theirs, was beyond doubt. Commuting the death sentence to make it a life sentence is mercy. Freeing them is mockery. Worse still giving them airtime, celebrating their release, extracting sympathy bites, is horrific. Why does a ‘bad man’ get all the ‘honour’ a good man should get by default?
Two, the story that hogged the headlines for the greater part of the week was about the gruesome murder of a woman, Shraddha Walkar, by her live-in partner Aftab Poonawala, who after killing her, chopped her body to pieces, bought a refrigerator to store it and slowly disposed off the body parts over a period of five or more months. Shraddha had eloped from her Home in Mumbai, to New Delhi, breaking all daughter ties with her parents, but a concerned father happened to check her out and unable to find her filed a Police complaint, leading to the investigation. The murderer has been arrested and there are no visible traces of remorse on him.
Shraddha has asked Aftab to marry her and one disagreement led to another resulting in the killing.
What are we turning into, savages in the bygone days?
The Group of 20
The Group of Twenty is an intergovernmental forum consisting of 19 of the World’s major economies and the European Union which meets annually to tackle major issues related to the global economy. This year they met on 15 and 16 November, in picturesque Bali under the Presidency of Indonesia. Last year it was Italy. And the Presidency passes to India for the year 2023 with Prime Minister(PM) Narendra Modi taking over from Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, not the best of friends, had some tough talk going between them and sparks flying, over PM Trudeau being a leaking sieve by passing on everything discussed, to the Media. Xi told him it’s no appropriate and that’s not the way a conversation is conducted.
One of the outcomes of G20 Bali-Indonesia was that ‘most’ members condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and came close to using the word ‘war’ to describe what we all know simply as the ‘Russian-Ukraine War’. Wow!There were some murmurs of ‘eschewing’ use of nuclear weapons. And the European Union, Denmark and Norway announced a USD 20 million deal to decarbonise Indonesia’s coal-powered economy.
Return Ticket To The Moon
In ancient Greek mythology, Artemis is the daughter Greek God Zeus- the Sky and Weather God- and the twin sister of Apollo. US’ NASA first put man on the Moon with the Apollo 11 mission on 29 July 1969 and is returning to the Moon with… you guessed it, the Artemis Mission. And, naturally a woman to the Moon.
Artemis is the goddess of hunting, the wilderness, wild animals, nature, vegetation, childbirth, care of children, and chastity. She preferred to remain a maiden goddess and was sworn never to marry, and was thus one of the three Greek virgin goddesses-the others being Athena and Hestia.
Tracing the history of man on the moon, a total of 12 men have walked on the moon in six moon landings. This was accomplished with two US pilot-astronauts flying a Lunar Module on each of six NASA missions across a 41-month period starting 29 July 1969, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11, and ending on 14 December 1972 with Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt on Apollo 17. Gene Cernan was the last man to step off the lunar surface.
In summary, twenty-four US astronauts have traveled to the Moon; three have made the trip twice, and twelve have walked on its surface. Here are the names.
Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin (Apollo 11), Charles Conrad, Alan Bean (Apollo 12) , Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14), David Scott, James Irwin (Apollo 15) John Young, Charles Duke (Apollo 16), Eugene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17). Four of America’s moonwalkers are still alive: Aldrin, David Scott, Charles Duke, and Harrison Schmitt.
Moving forward from Apollo, Artemis I is an uncrewed test flight that will provide a foundation for deep space exploration and demonstrate the capability to return humans to the Moon. It will demonstrate the performance of the new Orion Spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS), and test capabilities to orbit the Moon and return safely to Earth.
The primary objective is to thoroughly test integrated systems before crewed missions, operating Orion in a deep space, testing Orion’s heat shield, and recovering the crew module after re-entry, descent, and splashdown. The flight will pave the way for future missions, including landing the first woman and first person of colour on the surface of the Moon.
The mission team encountered a number of setbacks in the lead-up to this week Wednesday morning’s launch, including technical issues with the mega moon rocket and two hurricanes that have rolled through the launch site. But then, count Artemis to self-heal and comeback.
The SLS carrying Orion blasted off from NASA’s modernised spaceport at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, this 16 November. Propelled by a pair of five-segment boosters and four RS-25 (Aerojet Rocketdyne, Liquid-fuel cryogenic) engines, the rocket reached the period of greatest atmospheric force in 90 seconds. The solid rocket boosters then burnt through their propellant and separated after about two minutes, and the core stage and RS-25s depleted propellant after eight minutes. After jettisoning the boosters, service module panels, and launch abort system, the core stage engines were shut down and the core stage separated from the spacecraft, leaving Orion attached to the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) in orbit. As the spacecraft made an orbit of Earth deploying its solar arrays in the process – to build its muscles- the ICPS gave Orion the big push it needed to leave Earth’s orbit and travel towards the Moon. This manoeuvre, called the trans-lunar injection, precisely targets a point about the Moon that will guide Orion close enough to be captured by the Moon’s gravity.
Orion separated from the ICPS about two hours after launch, after which ICPS deployed ten small satellites, known as CubeSats, along the way to study the Moon or head farther out to deep space destinations.
As Orion continues on its path from Earth orbit to the Moon, it will be propelled by a service module provided by ESA (European Space Agency) that will course-correct as needed along the way. The service module supplies the spacecraft’s main propulsion system and power.
The outbound trip to the Moon will take several days, during which time engineers will evaluate the spacecraft’s systems. Orion will fly about 97 kilometres (km) above the surface of the Moon at its closest approach, and then use the Moon’s gravitational force to propel Orion into a Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO), traveling about 64,000 km past the Moon. This distance is 48,000 km farther than the previous record set during Apollo 13 and the farthest in space any spacecraft built for humans has flown. Orion will also stay in space longer than any human spacecraft has without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
For its return trip to Earth, Orion will get another gravity assist from the Moon as it does a second close flyby, firing engines at precisely the right time to harness the Moon’s gravity. And accelerate back toward Earth, setting itself on a trajectory to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.
Once the spacecraft has passed this extreme heating phase of flight, the forward bay cover that protects its parachutes will be jettisoned-crew module separates from service module- Orion’s two drogue parachutes deploy first, at 7600 m, and within a minute slow Orion to about 160 kph (kilometres per hour) before being released. They are followed by three pilot parachutes that pull out the three main parachutes which will slow Orion’s descent to less than 32 kph. The spacecraft will make a precise landing within eyesight of the Recovery Ship off the coast of San Diego in the Pacific Ocean.
Three ‘passengers’ will fly aboard Orion to test the spacecraft’s systems and collect data for future missions with real astronauts.
A suited manikin (model of the human body) named Commander Moonikin Campos occupies the commander’s seat inside Orion to provide data on what crew members may experience in flight. Two additional seats in Orion will be occupied by manikin torsos, called phantoms, manufactured from materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues, and organs of an adult female. Named Zohar and Helga, the torsos will be fitted with more than 5600 passive sensors and 34 active radiation detectors to measure radiation exposure as part of the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE), an international effort including the German Aerospace Center, the Israel Space Agency, and NASA.
Zohar will wear a radiation protection vest, called AstroRad, while Helga will not. The study will provide valuable data on radiation levels astronauts may encounter on lunar missions. It will evaluate the effectiveness of the protective vest that could allow crew to exit the storm shelter and continue working on critical mission activities inspite of a solar storm.
The Artemis I Mission duration is about 25 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes. Total distance travelled 1.3million miles. Splashdown will be on 11 December 2022.
Absolutely exciting, what ‘flies ahead’ in the weeks to come.
The Prarambh of India’s Private Space Adventure
India’s Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) wasn’t making any friends to chill out with and was shamelessly engrossed in effortlessly launching Satellites into space. Could get lonely at times. The Government noticed and in June 2020 arranged to open the Space sector to private players so that ISRO could find some partners and have a relationship, Live-in? Maybe? Private players were allowed to use various ISRO resources to make the cut, use, and study Space.
This Friday, India’s first privately built rocket, Vikram-S (named after India’s pioneering Space Scientist Vikram Sarabhai), developed by Hyderabad based startup Skyroot Aerospace successfully blasted off from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, creating history. The mission was called Prarambh (the beginning) and Vikram-S will help test and validate 80 % technologies for future suborbital missions especially the upcoming Vikram-I in 2023.
Suborbital? What’s that? Suborbital launch refers to vehicles that travel high enough to travel to the edge of outer space, but do not have the energy to achieve orbit around the Earth. Typically, they reach speeds of 2 to 6 times the speed of sound and curve back to kiss dear Earth. In comparison, an orbital spacecraft has to travel fast enough to orbit the Earth without falling back due to gravity, which involves speeds of about 25 times the speed of sound.
The 6m tall rocket, Vikram-S, is a single-stage solid fuelled, suborbital test launch vehicle, which took about two years to develop. It weighs about 545 kg and, in its maiden flight carried three customer payloads belonging to SpaceKidz India, and BazoomQ Armenia and N-Space Tech India – who all reported that they are happy with the outcome.
The launch also served as a technology demonstration to showcase the capabilities of Skyroot which has used its propulsion system, Kalam 80, and spin stabilisation system for the rocket.
Skyroot eventually plans to pitch itself as a company offering one of the quickest and most affordable rides to Space, and could become part of ISRO’s journey to evolve into a preferred destination for cost-effective launch of satellites. Skyroot expects more than 20,000 small satellites to be kicked into Space in the coming decade and aims to position itself as a serious player through mass producibility and affordability. They are hoping that launching satellites into Space will soon become as easy as booking a cab-quick, precise, and affordable!
Root for the skies, it’s for the asking!
When the movie Black Panther hit theatres in February 2018, it opened to a stellar USD 202 million weekend. It then went on to make USD 1.3 billion worldwide and garnered multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. The film is considered to be one of the best and biggest blockbusters from the comic book genre and from the Marvel Studios- the most lucrative brand in all of Hollywood, United States.
With this in black and white and in the background screen, the sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever released this week, opened to an estimated USD 180 million in North America – that’s sizeable. This time the film had to do with without star Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in 2020.
The opening is one of the best premieres of the year and makes the superhero film the highest-grossing debut ever for the month of November. The original record belonged to ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ which made USD 158 million in November 2013.
Black Panther: Wakanda, stars Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett as the princess and queen of the fictional African country of Wakanda. And appears to be a fitting sequel to one of the most popular films of all time.
More thrilling stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Launch yourself into the Space of World Inthavaaram, forever.