1. SPACE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY A) CASSINI JOURNEY ENDS What’s in news? NASA’s $3.9-billion Cassini spacecraft has ended its 20-year-long journey with...
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1. SPACE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY A) CASSINI JOURNEY ENDS What’s in news? NASA’s $3.9-billion Cassini spacecraft has ended its 20-year-long journey with a plunge into the Saturn’s atmosphere. Cassini-Huygens 

Cassini–Huygens was an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. Cassini studied the planet and its many natural satellites since arriving there in 2004.

Its design includes a Saturn orbiter (Cassini) and a lander (Huygens) for the moon Titan. On December 25, 2004, Huygens separated from the orbiter, and it landed on Saturn's moon Titan on January 14, 2005.

Cassini continued to study the Saturn system in the following years.

The mission was managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the United States, where the orbiter was assembled. Huygens was developed by the European Space Research and Technology Centre.

Mission Objectives •

Determine the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behaviour of the rings of Saturn

Determine the composition of the satellite surfaces

Study the dynamic behaviour of Saturn's atmosphere at cloud level

Characterize Titan's surface

Grand Finale •

It involved a series of close Saturn passes, approaching within the rings, then an entry into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15, 2017, to destroy the spacecraft.

On November 29, 2016, the spacecraft performed a Titan flyby. This was the start of the Grand Finale phase culminating in its impact with the planet.

A final Titan flyby on April 22, 2017, changed the orbit again to fly through the gap between Saturn and its inner ring days later on April 26.

Missions •

Prime Mission, July 2004 through June 2008

Cassini Equinox Mission was a two-year mission extension which ran from July 2008 through September 2010.

Cassini Solstice Mission ran from October 2010 through April 2017

Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017


Grand Finale: April 2017 to September 2017

B) MILKY WAY DIFFERENT FROM NORMAL GALAXIES What’s in news? Milky Way may not be an example of a “typical” galaxy. Why so? Results from the Satellites Around Galactic Analogs (SAGA) survey indicate that the Milky Way’s satellites are much more ‘’calmer”. C) OSIRIS – REX GRAVITY ASSIST Why in news? Gravity assist of OSIRIS – REx was successful. The spacecraft zipped over Antarctica at a distance of 17,000 kilometres, using Earth’s gravity to shift its trajectory so it can eventually meet up with Bennu. What is OSIRIS – REx? NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security - Regolith Explorer asteroid sample return mission (OSIRIS-REx), is the first mission to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth for study. OBJECTIVES

• Origins: Return and analyze a pristine carbon rich asteroid sample • Spectral Interpretation: Provide ground truth or direct observations for telescopic data of the entire asteroid population • Resource Identification: Map the chemistry and mineralogy of a primitive carbon rich asteroid • Security: Measure the effect of sunlight on the orbit of a small asteroid, known as the Yarkovsky effect—the slight push created when the asteroid absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat • Regolith Explorer: Document the regolith (layer of loose, outer material) at the sampling site. MISSION OVERVIEW •

In August 2018, OSIRIS-REx’s approach to Bennu will begin. The spacecraft will briefly touch the surface of Bennu to retrieve a sample.

In March 2021, it will begin its return journey to Earth, arriving two and a half years later in September 2023.

Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017


D) STAR EMITTING POLARISED LIGHT What’s in news? The researchers detected polarised light from the star Regulus. Background 

Indian astrophysicist and Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar first predicted the emission of polarized light from the edges of stars in 1946. In 1968, Perkins Observatory Astronomers J. Patrick Harrington and George W. Collins II built on Chandrasekhar’s work to predict that the distorted shape of a rapidly rotating star would lead to the emission of polarized light.

About Regulus 

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Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo and one of the brightest in the entire sky. It is also designated Alpha Leonis. This star is located approximately 79 light-years away.

E) PSLV C-39 FAILURE What went wrong in the launch of the IRNSS-1H satellite? ISRO declared the IRNSS-1H launch a failure after a heat shield failed to separate, preventing the satellite from being deployed in space by PSLV-C39, the launch vehicle. The performance of PSLV-C39 went to plan up to the point when the satellite had to be inserted in orbit. What is a heat shield? The heat shield is a protective cover provided around the satellite to help it withstand the adverse temperatures felt when a rocket is launched into space. Separation of the heat shield occurs mid-flight when the rocket leaves Earth’s atmosphere. What was IRNSS-1H supposed to do? IRNSS-1H was intended to replace IRNSS-1A, which developed problems last year. What kind of problems made a replacement necessary? ISRO stated last January that three Rubidium Atomic Frequency Standard (RAFS) clocks on IRNSS-1A had developed problems, rendering the satellite ineffective for navigation services. What is the payload on IRNSS-1H? IRNSS-1H had a navigation payload and a ranging payload. The ranging payload of IRNSS satellites has a C-band transponder to determine the range of the satellite. The navigation payload is meant to transmit navigation service signals to users on earth while operating in the L5-band and S-band. Part of the navigation payload is high-accuracy RAFS clocks. Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017


Why are these clocks important? Accurate timekeeping lies at the heart of navigation systems since the determination of a person’s position on earth is subject to the accurate calculation of delays in signal transmission from the satellite to earth. Pyro Device Failure

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has come round to the inference that the PSLV C-39 mission on August 31 was doomed by the failure of the pyro devices that actuate the separation of the heat shield encasing the satellite from the rocket. Pyro devices use small charges to actuate the release mechanism that forces the fairings apart.

2. HEALTH AND DISEASES A) NATIONAL PROGRAMME TO TEST DRUG RESISTANT TB Why in news? Health authorities started a nationwide programme to test every tuberculosis (TB) patient for signs of resistance to first-line drugs. Expected Outcomes  

A realistic assessment on the scale of resistance to commonly-available tuberculosis drugs. Could reveal a large number of hidden tuberculosis patients.

States involved States that will first see this policy being implemented include Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.


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Forecasting dengue outbreak is possible. This was revealed in a recent study after evaluating the relationship of climatic factors to the spread of dengue in different climatic zones in India — Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Kerala. They focussed on changes in a factor called extrinsic incubation period (EIP) of the dengue virus, by taking into account daily and monthly mean temperatures in these areas. The study has been jointly done by the Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Guwahati, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Liverpool.

Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017


C) NEW MOLECULES CAPABLE OF DESTROYING BIO-FILM FORMING BACTERIA What’s in news? Two new molecules capable of destroying bio-film forming bacteria have been developed by scientists at the Bengaluru-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR). What are Biofilms? Biofilms are communities of microorganisms that attach to each other and to surfaces and are able to act as barriers to antibiotics. When used in combination with existing antibiotics, the molecules reduced the microbial burden in the case of burns and surgical wounds. Importance of these molecules   

The effect of these macromolecules on chronic biofilm causing pathogens like E. coli, Acinetobacter, Klebsiella were studied and the results were recently published in PLOS ONE. With the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, it is essential to develop new compounds that can work against them. A combination of existing antibiotics (erythromycin) and the macromolecules also showed efficacy in treating burn and surgical wound infections caused by multi-drug resistant pathogens — Acinetobacter and Klebsiella — in animal models.

D) ANTIGEN AGAINST CERVICAL CANCER Why in news? Researchers at the New Delhi-based National Institute of Immunology (NII) have now extracted a tumour antigen named SPAG9 that promises to be a highly potent weapon against this type of cancer. Basic Details   

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in India. Almost one lakh women fall victim to it every year in the country. Poor health, malnutrition and an unhygienic environment are the main cause behind the Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that leads to cervical cancer. Normally our body has tumour suppressor genes and proteins which are able to suppress the formation of tumours. The cells in a tumour multiply uncontrollably with hardly any cell death.


A rotavirus vaccine tested on children during a Phase III trial has been found to be safe and efficacious. The vaccine (ROTASIL) manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India has nearly 39% efficacy in children with severe rotavirus cases and nearly 55% against the very severe form of rotavirus diarrhoea. The vaccine targets all the five rotavirus serotypes. In 2013, an estimated 47,000 rotavirus deaths occurred in India. India accounted for 22% of all rotavirus deaths in the world. The Phase III trial was carried out at six sites in India.

Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017


Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoeal disease among infants and young children.

4. BIODIVERSITY A) HABITAT CONNECTIVITY Why in news? a recent study published in Scientific Reports has said that habitat connectivity could be crucial for the survival of India’s three tiger populations. The isolated tiger population in Ranthambore in Rajasthan demands urgent conservation attention, being at risk of inbreeding and lack of connectivity with other populations. What is Habitat Connectivity? Habitat connectivity is the degree to which the landscape facilitates animal movement and other ecological flows. Threats to the tiger population   

Poaching Habitat loss Fragmentation

Variations in Tigers of India   

The northwest cluster (consisting only of tigers from Ranthambore), Southern (south India) Central (comprising tigers from the Terai, northeast and central India).


The bristlecone pine tree, famous for its wind-beaten, gnarly limbs and having the longest lifespan on Earth, is losing a race to the top of mountains throughout the Western United States, putting future generations in peril, researchers said. The bristlecone pine can live 5,000 years, making it the oldest individually growing organism on the planet, researchers say.

C) SNOW LEOPARD UPGRADED TO ‘VULNERABLE’ STATUS The elusive snow leopard long considered an “endangered” species has been upgraded to “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017


5. DEFENCE A) ADVANCED TOWED ARTILLERY GUN SYSTEM Why in news? The advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS), which is being jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the private sector, has set a world record in range by hitting targets at a distance of 48 km. About Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System  

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ATAGS is a 155mm, 52 calibre towed artillery gun being developed in mission mode by DRDO as a part of the Army’s artillery modernisation programme. The gun has several significant features, including an all-electric drive, high mobility, quick deployability, auxiliary power mode, advanced communication system, and an automated command and control system. It has a six round magazine, instead of a standard three round one. The gun weighs slightly more than normal due to the larger chamber. The Army has not inducted any new artillery gun since the Bofors in the 1980s.

6. IT AND COMMUNICATION A) BLOCKCHAIN METHOD It is a digital public ledger that records every transaction. Once a transaction is entered in the blockchain, it cannot be erased or modified. Blockchain removes the need for using a trusted third party such as a bank to make a transaction by directly connecting the customers and suppliers. What are the use cases?  

Bitcoin is just one of the applications for the technology, whose use is being tested across industries. It is witnessing a lot of traction within India, in sectors such as banking and insurance. The Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT), an arm of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is developing a model platform for this technology.

What are the benefits? Blockchain becomes a good fit when there is a lot of data that is shared across multiple parties with no trust mechanism among the participants.


The government will soon announce a policy that accords preference in official procurement to ‘Made in India’ antivirus and cybersecurity solutions. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued a draft notification which states that the preference shall be provided by all procuring entities to domestically manufactured/ produced cybersecurity products.

Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017


The notification will cover all products and software used for maintaining confidentiality, availability and integrity of information by protecting computing devices, infrastructure, programs, data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. Currently, almost 70 categories of cybersecurity products have been identified. These include products used for data loss prevention, security analytics, big data analytics, web security, antivirus, mobile payments, mobile data protection, cloud security, spam free email solutions, among others.

7. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS A) #LetsTalkIP On September 4, the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, launched a social media campaign to promote Geographical Indications (GIs) with the hashtag #LetsTalkIP. The Press Release GIs are of utmost importance to the country as they are an integral part of India’s rich culture and collective intellectual heritage and that their promotion is in line with the Government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. It is an area of strength and optimism for India as the “GI tag” has accorded protection to several handmade and manufactured products, especially in the informal sector. CIPAM proposes to talk about interesting facts and stories on GIs using social media. Importance of the campaign The proposed campaign is certainly heartening because goods branded as GIs can be made indigenously by local communities independently and in a self-sustaining manner. It is an added advantage that if protected the correct way, GIs can promote rural development in a significant manner and could be fitted in as the most ideal intellectual property right to bolster a programme such as ‘Make in India’. Problems A GI is supposed to convey to a consumer the assurance of a certain quality, reputation or other characteristics of the goods on which it is applied, which are essentially attributable to its geographical origin. In the Indian scenario, the question arises whether the GI Act provides for quality control measures and verification of compliance. Unlike the European Regulation, the GI Act does not provide for monitoring mechanisms at multiple levels.

Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017


Currently, there is a proliferation of GI registrations in India without any legal provisions stipulating post-registration quality control measures that are to be employed in the production of goods branded as GIs.

Science & Tech, Environment – September 2017