Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

December 22, 2022

India first crewed space mission scheduled for Q4, 2024

Filed under: Astronomy / Space — Suramya @ 5:48 PM

The Indian Space Program has been running on an accelerated schedule over the past few years. We had the Chandrayaan 2 launch in 2019 followed by multiple record breaking launch of 104 satellites (It was later broken by Space X, but efforts are ongoing to break their record of 143 satellites launched.

India is aiming to launch an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft Gaganyaan (“Space Craft”) by Q4, 2024. If all goes well India will become the 4th country to put a human in space after Russia, US and China. This is an extremely ambitious program that will push the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to its limits. This was announced yesterday by India’s Minister for Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh in his answer to a question posed in the Lok Sabha.

(a) The first uncrewed flight of Gaganyaan programme i.e. ‘G1’ mission is aimed at validating the performance of Human rated launch vehicle, Orbital module propulsion system, mission management, communication system and recovery operations. The mission will carry a humanoid as payload. In view of the paramount importance of crew safety, two Test Vehicle missions are planned before the ‘G1’ mission to demonstrate the performance of crew escape system and parachute-based deceleration system for different flight conditions.

(b) Yes, Sir. The uncrewed ‘G1’ mission is targeted to be launched in the last quarter of 2023 followed by the second uncrewed ‘G2’ mission in the second quarter of 2024. India’s maiden human space flight ‘H1’ mission is targeted to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2024.

(c) & (d) Yes, Sir. The astronaut designates for human space flight mission are identified and are currently undergoing their mission specific training at Bengaluru. First semester of Astronaut training has been
completed wherein they have undergone course modules on Theoretical basics, Space medicine, Launch vehicles, spacecraft system and ground support infrastructure. Regular physical fitness sessions, aeromedical training and flying practice are also part of crew training. Corresponding evaluation and assessment activities have also been completed. The second semester of crew training is currently in progress.

Another interesting point for this launch is that the training for the astronauts is being conducted in India itself at ISRO’s facility in Bangalore instead of in Russia as it was done in the past. Now that the initial announcement has been made, we need to publicize this a lot more to get everyone excited about the launch. If possible I will def be planning a visit to Sriharikota to witness the launch in person.

I am looking forward to the launch and wish ISRO all the best. This is a proud moment for all Indians. Jai Hind.

Source: Gaganyaan: ISRO plans to launch first human space flight mission in 2024 & India schedules first crewed space mission for Q4, 2024

– Suramya

June 30, 2022

Help NASA find clouds on Mars to solve the mystery of the low atmospheric pressure on Mars

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,Science Related — Suramya @ 3:29 AM

If you have some free time and are fascinated by Mars, you can use your spare time to help NASA figure out why Mars’ atmosphere is just 1% as dense as Earth’s. The air pressure on mars is so low that liquid water just vaporizes from the planet’s surface into the atmosphere. The really interesting part is that originally (a few billion years ago) Mars had a lot thicker atmosphere.

You don’t need special skill to help with this, as the project is focusing on the study of Martian clouds. Specifically, volunteers will be looking at scientific data collected over 16 years to identify cloud formations. It might seem like a simple thing but once the clouds are identified we can look at other data captured at the same time such as temperature, time of the day, season etc which will help scientists create maps of where they form, determine what they’re made of (water, carbon dioxide, or dust), and see how they change throughout the day and through the seasons.

Cloudspotting on Mars asks members of the public to look for arches such as this one (center) in data collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (Source: NASA)

It will involve looking at graphs such as the one above to look for arches (spikes) that can indicate clouds. If you are interested, you can join from the project’s website.

Thanks to Digital Trends: NASA wants your help to solve an enduring Mars mystery for the link.

– Suramya

May 3, 2022

Key DNA building blocks found in meteorites supporting the theory that meteorites contributed to origin of life on earth

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,My Thoughts,Science Related — Suramya @ 10:22 AM

How life started on Earth is a subject that is under massive debate and there are multiple theories on how all the required building blocks came into being on earth. One theory is that while the earth was forming and in the early stages of becoming a planet one or more meteorites containing the building blocks of life crashed into the planet. Once the blocks were there over time they combined together to form DNA and then life started.

DNA consists of pairs of molecules called nucleobases which consist of adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. These together form the DNA which is the basis of all life on earth. Two of these nucleobases – adenine and guanine were detected in meteorites back in the 1960s. Leading the scientists to postulate that they could have been the source of the compounds on earth. However, till recently no one was able to detect the remaining two DNA nucleobases in any meteorite which made it hard to argue that the meteorites where the source of the nucleobases.

Now, Yasuhiro Oba at Hokkaido University in Japan and his colleagues have discovered the remaining two DNA nucleobases, cytosine and thymine in several meteorites. They examined rocks from three meteorites: the Murchison, Murray and Tagish Lake meteorites that date to about 5 billion years ago and hit earth approximately two decades ago.

The lack of pyrimidine diversity in meteorites remains a mystery since prebiotic chemical models and laboratory experiments have predicted that these compounds can also be produced from chemical precursors found in meteorites. Here we report the detection of nucleobases in three carbonaceous meteorites using state-of-the-art analytical techniques optimized for small-scale quantification of nucleobases down to the range of parts per trillion (ppt). In addition to previously detected purine nucleobases in meteorites such as guanine and adenine, we identify various pyrimidine nucleobases such as cytosine, uracil, and thymine, and their structural isomers such as isocytosine, imidazole-4-carboxylic acid, and 6-methyluracil, respectively. Given the similarity in the molecular distribution of pyrimidines in meteorites and those in photon-processed interstellar ice analogues, some of these derivatives could have been generated by photochemical reactions prevailing in the interstellar medium and later incorporated into asteroids during solar system formation. This study demonstrates that a diversity of meteoritic nucleobases could serve as building blocks of DNA and RNA on the early Earth.

This is an important find but more interestingly the team found that the soil around the Murchison meteorite had a higher concentration of the nucleobases than in the meteorite and according to researchers “If these results are representative of typical pyrimidine concentrations in meteorites, then [nucleobases present on] Earth would likely have been responsible for the emergence of genetic material rather than inputs from extraterrestrial delivery.”

Like always, the more we examine the world the more questions we have. For every question we answer, 10 more are formed. Which is what makes the whole scientific process of discovery so fascinating.

Source: New Scientist: All four of the key DNA building blocks have been found in meteorites
Paper: Identifying the wide diversity of extraterrestrial purine and pyrimidine nucleobases in carbonaceous meteorites

– Suramya

April 5, 2021

What reason would anyone have to convince people that the earth is not flat?

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:34 PM

A few days ago a Flat Earther, or to be less polite: a stupid idiot was arrested for burning down 3 masonic lodges as he posted a note on Social media claiming to “I just cleaned 3 satanic club houses and nobody could do anything.”. This news made me think about the whole Flat Earth conspiracy again and actually find the whole flat earth conspiracy quite interesting since there is absolutely no proof that earth is flat but still people keep insisting that it is. When asked for proof we are pointed towards Youtube videos as if they are actual science research.

The most interesting thing about it for me is that people always claim that the establishment, or the government and the media or whatever are part of a giant conspiracy to fool people into thinking the earth is flat. But no one has given an explanation as to why they would do something like that. I mean what is the government achieving by making people think the earth is not flat. Everything needs a reason to exist and as far as I can tell there is no reason for the government to fool people into thinking the earth is a sphere. In the middle ages there was a movement that said that the earth was flat because the bible said so but now unless I am mistaken even the church agrees that this is not the case.

According to the conspiracy theorists people have been spending trillions of dollars to make people believe in something that is not true. However whenever we spend money (especially that amount of money) the goal is to achieve something or get something. I have so far been unable to figure out what that is. Looking that the flip side, most of these conspiracy theorists have a financial motive for pushing the theory. From selling merchandise to speaking gigs to book deals etc they have a lot of interest in pushing this theory to the unenlightened masses.

Personally I would rather believe the scientists, researchers, religious figures and scripture. In Hinduism for example, the Surya Siddhanta published from between 350 and 400 CE states that the earth is a sphere and calculates the earth’s diameter to be 8,000 miles (modern: 7,928 miles), the diameter of the moon as 2,400 miles (actual ~2,160) and the distance between the moon and the earth to be 258,000 miles (now known to vary: 221,500–252,700 miles (356,500–406,700 kilometres). I would rather believe these experts than the so called ‘experts’ on youtube who are only there to make money.

How the world looks according to a flat earther

– Suramya

October 9, 2020

Cosmic Radiation levels on the Moon measured to be 200 times higher than at the surface of Earth

Filed under: Astronomy / Space — Suramya @ 10:09 PM

One of the problems with having Humans in space and living there is how to deal with cosmic radiation. When we start talking about having habitats in Space, for example on the Moon or on Mars, dangers of cosmic radiation is one of the risks that we have to address. We don’t have to worry about it in our daily life because on Earth we are protected by its magnetic shield from the cosmic radiation, however once we get outside the atmosphere & magnetic shield it becomes an issue. Unprotected humans living on the Space Station are at significant risk for radiation sickness, increased risk of cancer and degenerative diseases. Dangers of Cosmic radiation are long known however there has never been any accurate measurement of how much stronger the Cosmic radiation is on the Moon since it doesn’t have an atmosphere or magnetic field to block the dangerous radiation and knowing the strength of the radiation would be crucial in designing habitats on the Moon to protect the astronauts living there.

Now thanks to an International collaborative effort we finally have an answer to the question “How much higher is the Radiation on the moon, as compared to Earth & the ISS”. Using the Lunar Lander Neutron and Dosimetry (LND) which was part of the payload on China’s Chang’e-4 lunar probe (which landed on the far side of the moon early last year) the researchers were able to measure the radiation it was exposed to. Basically the LND measured the total amount of radiation it was exposed to over the 2 week period of its operation and sent that data back to earth where the researchers divided the total radiation dose by the amount of time tool operated to calculate the daily total.

This gives us the first concrete measurement of the Cosmic radiation on the surface of the moon. Unfortunately the numbers are not pretty, the base Radiation level on the surface of the Moon is approximately 200 times more than the base Radiation level on the surface of the Earth. Even when we compare it to the level on the ISS, it turns out that the moon has over 2.6 times higher radiation levels than the ISS making it very risky for unshielded humans to stay there for a long duration.

The only way to protect the astronauts is to shield their habitats and spacesuits. For the spacesuits there is ongoing research to identify the best material for shielding (lead works great but is heavy) and for the habitats the cheapest and most effective option would be to just build the whole thing underground. The lunar soil would act as a shield to protect the interior and best of all it doesn’t require us to lift heavy shielding material into orbit reducing the cost of the missions. As per the team’s calculations burying the habitat under ~30 inches of lunar soil would give it protection equivalent to ground level on Earth.

For the assessment of the radiation exposure, the relevant quantities have to be measured by the detector systems: The absorbed dose, D, is the ratio of the energy (E; usually measured in keV) deposited in a detector and the mass, m, of the detector and is expressed in units of Gray (Gy = J/kg). Division by the accumulation time results in the measured dose rate (expressed in Gy/hour). Using a combination of two detectors in coincidence, one measures the distribution of energies deposited in a detector to obtain the linear energy transfer (LET) spectrum [usually in units of keV per micrometer (keV/μm)]. This spectrum is integrated with so-called quality factors, Q, used as biological weights to obtain the dose equivalent, H, which is expressed in units of Sievert (Sv = J/kg). The exact procedures are defined by the International Commission on Radiation Protection (17). Because the human body is not made of silicon, and to make dose, dose rate, and LET measurements more easily comparable to others, one normally converts the values measured in Si to the corresponding quantities in water using a constant dose conversion factor of 1.30 (18).

The Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND) experiment is described in more detail in the literature (19), but we summarize the pertinent information here for convenience. The LND is mounted in the payload compartment of the Chang’E 4 lander. The red arrow in Fig. 1 points at the reclosable door that protects LND from the cold lunar nights but is open during lunar daytime. The LND consists of a stack of 10 dual-segment silicon solid-state detectors (SSDs), A to J, as shown in the main part of Fig. 2. Total absorbed dose and dose rate are measured in detector B, and the absorbed dose (rate) from neutral particles is measured in the inner segment of the C detector, C1, with the closely spaced detectors B and D as well as the outer segment of C, C2, serving as anticoincidence to discriminate against charged particles. The LET is then determined as discussed above from the dE/dx measured using three different combinations of detector pairs with different counting rates and average path lengths. Penetrating particles are measured by requiring signals in all 10 detectors.

More details of the research are available on the paper published in the journal Science Advances late last month. Check it out if you are interested in learning more technical details about the project.

Source: After measuring radiation on the moon for the first time, scientists say a lunar base should be built underground to protect astronauts

– Suramya

September 11, 2020

Testing the world’s largest digital camera by photographing Broccoli

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,Tech Related — Suramya @ 6:53 PM

The world largest digital camera has completed its first test successfully by capturing the first 3,200-megapixel images of a Broccoli. This camera is meant to be part of the telescope at the Vera Rubin Observatory where they will be taking photographs of the sky to help us improve our understanding of the universe. Once it goes live it will photograph its entire field of view (the area of about 40 full moons) every few nights, which will give the researchers the ability to pinpoint the locations of billions of stars and galaxies, while also catching anything that moves or flashes.

The imaging sensors for the camera took over 6 months to assemble as they need to be mounted very precisely. The sensors are assembled in a grid of 9 sensors called a scientific raft and the whole setup consists of 25 rafts. Each raft is precisely mounted with a gap of just 5 human hairs between each raft. Each raft costs approximately $3 million each so you won’t be able to buy it from the corner shop anytime soon. Once the sensors were assembled successfully the whole apparatus is cooled to a negative 150 degrees Fahrenheit which is their operating temperature.

Even though the assembly was completed back in January the scientists were unable to take test pictures due to the Coronavirus pandemic till May. Even though the sensor assembly has been completed the team still doesn’t have all the remaining camera components such as lenses. So they had to improvise by using a 150-micron pinhole to project images on to the CCD array. That’s correct, they used the same ‘technology’ as what we used as kids to learn about photography to take a picture with the largest ever camera built.

Since they needed to take a picture of something that would allow them to verify the quality of the picture they decided to take a picture of Broccoli which has a lot of lumps & bumps on its surface making its structure perfect to test out the new camera sensors.

“Taking these images is a major accomplishment,” said Aaron Roodman, professor and chair of the particle physics and astrophysics department and the scientist at SLAC responsible for the assembly and testing of the LSST camera, in a statement.

“With the tight specifications we really pushed the limits of what’s possible to take advantage of every square millimeter of the focal plane and maximize the science we can do with it.”

The team is estimating that the camera would be ready for testing by mid-2021 before it’s sent off to Chile for installation in the Vera Rubin Observatory.

Source: Vera Rubin: Super telescope’s giant camera spies broccoli

– Suramya

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