Space missions come with an unprecedented excitement of open a Pandora’s box of unknown facts, mysteries and phenomenons. It is hardly a surprise that New Horizons, NASA’s mission to explore Pluto and beyond has caused a great excitement in the field of planetary science. Launched in 2006, New Horizons has already provided mankind with the most intimate images of Pluto till date and is now cruising towards the Kuiper Belt beyond our Solar System. Read all that you should know about this space mission, its latest findings and its future stops as it progresses toward new horizons of space in an interview with Prof. Henry Throop.
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The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), a joint mission of NASA and German Aerospace Center, was launched in 2002 and has been making a detailed map of earth’s gravity field anomalies. By studying these anomalies, one can show how mass is distributed on the planet’s surface. This allows researchers to map the different features on the surface of the planet, natural and man-made ones, in great detail, while also allowing us to monitor the changes in these features.
Today, India’s space programs command the world’s respect for a multitude of things -- our Mangalyaan mission was the cheapest ever, we recently launched about 108 satellites into space with a single rocket, our Chandrayaan mission is making fantastic discoveries on the Moon, we launched our own space based observatory with Astrosat...the list goes on. But when the country started its space program, it had very humble beginnings that are hard to believe. It required the courage and determination of many intellectuals and Prof. U R Rao is one of those who scripted a new chapter in India’s history of space research. Here is an orbituary piece dedicated to the life of a great visionary that we just lost amongst us.
What if a shoe could save your life when you are stuck in a building that is burning down? Though it sounds like a science fiction, the OpenShoe project aims to do exactly that! Built on a novel navigation technology called Inertial Navigation System (INS), researchers have built a minute navigation module that can be plugged into a shoe to track every step to the accuracy of a centimeter! Such foot-mounted systems help in tracking objects in the absence of satellite based navigation and would complement the widely used satellite based navigation systems, say the researchers.
Nanotechnology is the study of objects whose size varies in the range of nanometers--that is a billion times smaller than a meter. Although humans have been known to use nanotechnology since the ninth century, its role became prominent with the rise of information technology, with most of our current technologies like the smart phones, satellites and rovers on mars, depending on nanotechnology. We have just started uncovering the properties of the different elements and molecules at this scale, giving rise to new technologies as we do.
Uric acid is a compound made of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, and is one of the components in urine. High amounts of uric acid in the blood could lead to many debilitating medical conditions such as diabetes and gout. However, detecting the compound in living cells without damaging the cells can be quite a challenge. Now, scientists from Visva- Bharati Santiniketan, West Bengal, Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology, Howrah and University of Calcutta, Kolkata have devised a novel way of detecting uric acid without disrupting the cell.
India is no stranger to air pollution, with the capital, New Delhi, being identified as one of the most polluted cities in the world, several times. The harmful effects of this deteriorating air quality can be seen in the increasing number of patients with respiratory disorders. Now, a team of scientists have designed a novel gas sensor using MEMS technology that is compact, highly sensitive, consumes very little power and accurately detects gaseous pollutants like CO, CO2, NO2 & SO2.
How do we test the strength and rigidity of the materials used by engineers to build? We could use a sample of the material that we wish to study, and bombard it with projectiles to study how the material reacts to the bombardment. This method, however does not allow us to understand the behaviour of the test material at a microscopic level.
The race to space is heating up with the addition of private players around the world. With increasing competition to make space explorations affordable, there is a whole ecosystem of small and big companies trying to eye the possible revenues. One among them is the award winning start-up from Bangalore, incubated at IISc, called Bellatrix Aerospace. In a recent conversation with Research Matters, the company reveals its plans for the future and talks about its innovative solutions that aim to make space explorations cheaper than ever.
Lignin, like cellulose, is an insoluble fibre found in many fruits and vegetables including kiwi, ridge gourd, carrots, spinach and kale. In a recent study, scientists from the Vivekananda College of Pharmacy, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Poornaprajna Institute of Scientific Research (PPISR) have prepared lignin-rich nanoparticles from vegetables by treating their fibres with special enzymes thus making it ‘green’.