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LATESTThe PSLV-C10 lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota ...Robotic Hand for amputees...Space recovery Capsule Experiment (SRE-I) Succesful...Greek paleontologists have discovered the tusks and fossilized remains of a 3-million-year old mastodon, or extinct elephant, in northern Greece....India's moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, will blast off on April 9, 2008....8,000 delegates set to turn up at Visakhapatnam science congress....







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Updated 6.2.2008


         All men by nature desire knowledge           - Aristotle

Science & Technology The PSLV-C10 lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota  
  India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C10, successfully put the Israeli satellite Tecsar into orbit. It was a textbook launch with the “core-alone” configuration of the PSLV lifting off on time from the first launch pad at Sriharikota at 9.15 a.m. on Monday the 21st Jan 2008 and injecting Tecsar into its precise orbit 19 minutes and 45 seconds after the lift-off. Tecsar, weighing 300 kg, is a remote-sensing satellite that can take pictures of the earth 365 days of the year, 24 hours of the day, through rain, clouds, day and night. It has a one-metre resolution. It was earlier known as Polaris. This was the 11th successful launch in a row for the trusty PSLV.  
  A Robotic Hand for amputees  


outhampton University researchers have developed a robotic hand that can grasp delicate objects without crushing or dropping them.  Fitted with fingertip sensors, the robotic hand is reportedly capable of grappling with door keys and twisting the lid off a jar.  “We’ve added new arrays of sensors that allow it to sense temperature, grip-force and whether an object is slipping,” Neil White, an electronic engineer, who developed the hand, claimed.  The researchers are now hoping that their new discovery will provide amputees with greater dexterity and deftness of touch, as opposed to a prosthetic limb.  “The slip sensors prevent that by detecting the vibration as an object slips through the fingers,” Mr.  White said.  The hand’s sensors consist of patches of piezoelectric crystals surrounded by circuitry, all screen printed directly onto each fingertip through a technique called “thick-film fabrication.”  The piezoelectric crystals create voltages when their shape changes, and an detect changes in temperature, vibration and strain.

IIT-Kanpur  to develop micro-sat,  a Satellite To Be Used For Surveillance For Strategic Importance
The Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur is all set to develop a micro-satellite, weighing 3-5 kg, of nanosatellite regime for the first time in India. Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has sanctioned the satellite, based on micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) technology. The satellite, with a budget of approximately Rs 8 crore, is to be developed within the next 24 months. “The development of the satellite is purely a student oriented activity. We have identified a group of seven students from various departments of the IIT-K for the project,’’ Nalinaksh S Vyas of IIT-K’s mechanical engineering department said. He said the proposed satellite would be used for surveillance for strategic importance and would be placed in bunch like a group of flies in the womb of a bigger mother satellite. “The annual project evaluation team from ISRO is coming to the IIT-K on January 22, after which, we expect to start working on the project,’’ he said. He said the micro-satellite can be placed in space separately. “But we have planned to keep it in bunches for better visibility,’’ he said.  ISRO will launch the micro-satellite through PLSV, in the polar orbit at a height of about 700 km.  It will also encourage GSLV launching in the geostationary orbits at heights of about 35,000 km (for communication) after the successful PSLV launch.  ISRO has launched nine micro-satellites till now, but all were imported from other countries; most of them developed in foreign universities, Vyas said. The project was given the green signal after a series of meetings with the competent bodies starting with a meeting of ISRO’s Space Technology Cell on October 10, 2007, where Vyas presented the idea of phase-wise development of micro-satellite at the IIT-K. Another meeting took place at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram and ISAC Bangalore.
  Space Recovery Capsule Experiment (SRE-I) Successful  

India's initiative to recover a satellite launched from Sriharikota on January 10 turned t to be a "grand success" on Monday with the capsule "gently" splashing down at 9.44 am in the Bay of Bengal, about 140 kilometers east of Sriharikota island, and later being taken to Sriharikota for analysis.  Soon after the satellite "landed", the floatation system opened and the capsule started floating.  A helicopter from Coast Guard vessel "Sarang" located the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-I), which had dye-markers, and divers immediately went into action.  The satellite was brought on board "Sarang" and the vessel sailed into the Ennore harbor, 45 Kms from Chennai.  The accomplishment is a boost to the plans of India Space Research Organization's  (ISRO)  plans to send an astronaut into space in 10 years from now and bring him back.  The breakthrough is a forerunner to the organization mastering the re-entry and recovery technologies.  It is also boosts ISRO's plans to build a re-usable launch vehicle.  After the satellite plunged into the atmosphere at a velocity of 29,000 Km an hour withstood 1,400 to 2,000 degrees Celsius of heat, its parachutes opened with ballet-like precision one after the other about five km above the earth's surface.  Building and recovering the satellite was a challenge on several fronts.  It had to withstand fiery heat while plunging into the atmosphere after being in orbit for 12 days at an altitude of 635 Kms; the mechanism that would open the three parachutes in sequence had to work; its deceleration systems had to function efficiently; and the floatation system had to inflate to make the SRE-I, made of mild steel, float.  The SRE-I in a spherical cone shape, had two payloads and they conducted experiments in microgravity. 

On hand at the coal jetty of the Ennore Port to receive the triumphant return of the SRE were a beaming G. Madhavan Nair, ISRO Chairman; an elated Dr. B.N.Suresh, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram; M. Annamalai, Director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota; P.S.Veera Raghavan, Director, ISRO Inertial Systems Unit, Thiruvananthapuram, and S. Velumani, CMD Ennore Port Ltd.

  His Excellency the President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on the Mission.  

President APJ Abdul Kalam, the brain behind the India's Space programmes, was among the first to congratulate the ISRO Teams. "I am extremely delight to follow this morning the exciting recovery trajectory of SRE.  The experiment is a major technological breakthrough for the Indian space community and the participating national institutions in this complex mission. It gives me a great pleasure to congratulate the ISRO Chairman, project directors and mission specialists, scientific and technological experts and every participant from ISRO and partner organizations in this national mission."   -APJ ABDUL KALAM.

  Remains of extinct elephant in Greece :     
  Greek paleontologists have discovered the tusks and fossilized remains of a 3-million-year old mastodon, or extinct elephant, in northern Greece.  The tusks of the mammal weigh a tonne each and are 5 meters in length, the longest ever found, according to a report published in the Greek daily Kathimerini.  Experts believe the mammal to have been a male aged around 25, measuring 3.5 meters tall and weighing over 6 tonnes.  The petrified remains of the mastodon were found near the village of Milia, 430 Kms north of Athens, in an area where excavations have uncovered the remains of several prehistoric animals over the past decade.  The research team said it was the largest tusk ever found from the primitive ancestor of the elephant.  Mastodons were similar to wooly mammoths but had straighter tusks as well as different teeth and eating habits.  They roamed Europe, Asia and north America, but how they became extinct remains a mystery.  Mastodons are thought to have disappeared in Europe and Asia some 2 million years ago but survived in North America until 10,000 years ago.  Researchers said the find at Milia could yield clues about the mastodon's extinction.  
  Moon mission to blast off on April 9  
  India's moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, will blast off on April 9, 2008. ISRO fixed the date and month of the launch after taking into account the mission's work schedule and meteorological factors.  The moon mission includes launch of a satellite and moon impact probe - a small device that will crash-land on the moon to study its surface and mineralogical content.  
Astrosat to rise in 2009

      While India’s first mission to the moon — Chandrayaan-1 — was slated for an April launch, the nearly 40-year-old Indian space programme was set to cross another important milestone exactly a year later in April 2009 when the country’s first dedicated astronomy satellite — Astrosat — would be placed in orbit.  After a presentation at the Nehru Planetarium on Saturday, space scientist S N Tandon, who is part of the Astrosat project, said that many of the instruments for the launch were in advanced stage of completion. “Some of the detectors have been completed and the engineering models of some of the other instruments are getting ready,” he said. Tandon, who’s from the Pune based Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, is leading the team developing the ultra-violet telescope. He said that Astrosat would be carrying specialised telescopes known as X-ray telescope and ultraviolet telescope. In all there were six instruments which would fly on Astrosat, three of them being developed by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Tandon said that the Isro project had a global reach as the UK and Canada were also participating in it with their astronomy experiments.  Astrosat, which would be placed at an altitude of 650 km and flown by the highly proven four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), was scheduled for lift-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.  An antenna to receive data from Astrosat would be installed at Byalalu village near Bangalore. Tandon said the satellite was expected to have a five-year life and the data would be transmitted to the master control facility at Hassan in Karnataka through the antenna at Byalalu.  Tandon added that a follow-up satellite Astrosat-2, is also in the making.

UK scientists create embryo with three parents

      For procreation, it has always taken two to tango. But scientists from the UK's Newcastle University have taken reproductive biology where it has never gone before, they have created a human embryo from three parents, two women and a man.
    The scientists believe the technique will help prevent women with diseases of the mitochondria, tiny batteries within each cell that provide energy, from passing on the defects to their children. Mitochondrial DNA is carried from mother to offspring and faults in it can cause around 50 known diseases, some of which lead to disability and death.
     Researchers from Newcastle University presented their findings at a medical conference at the weekend, a university spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
     According to reports in the British media, the Newcastle team has created 10 successful three-parent embryos from couples at risk of mitochondrial disease. The embryos were fertilized through the conventional in-vitro method. After a day, each embryo was emptied of its pronuclei, structures that contain the sperm and egg which are still separate at this stage. This pronuclei was inserted into an emptied egg from a second woman with healthy mitochondria.
     In this way, the team created embryos which contained genetic material from the original parents but had healthy mitochondria from the donor woman. The embryos grew normally till day five, after which they were terminated.
     If the embryos were to be implanted back into the mothers, they would have created the world's first genetically modified babies. The team's experiments with mice have produced healthy offspring.
     Professor Patrick Chinnery, a member of the Newcastle team, was quoted by the BBC website as saying: "We believe from this work, and work we have done on other animals, that in principle we could develop this technique and offer treatment in the foreseeable future that will give families some hope of avoiding passing these diseases to their children.''
     The method has shown enough promise for a bill to be tabled in Britain's House of Lords that seeks an amendment to the country's human fertilisation and embryology bill to allow the technique to be used without permission of Parliament. The amendment will be debated by MPs soon.
     The method has to be rigorously tested and if all goes well, experts hope parents will be able to use the technique in three years' time.
     Pro-life campaigners have opposed the research saying it amounts to experimenting with human life. The method is similar to that used for producing clones, but scientists insist that it does not involve cloning.
    Scientists also stress that the technique does not alter genes, it only replaces defective mitochondria with healthy ones.
    Mitochondrial defects, which occur in one out of every 6,500 people, lead to conditions such as fatal liver failure, stroke-like episodes, blindness, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and deafness. There's no cure for these diseases.



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