Guwahati: Days after the Assam government withdrew the scheme for sending meritorious students on an educational tour to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US, a private school in Assam has announced that it will send 20 students, including one meritorious student from the rural area – the latter free of cost.
The Assam government had in 2012 announced the ‘Deba Kumar Bora Memorial NASA Visit’ enabling 10 meritorious students to go on a 12-day educational visit to NASA. The scheme, which was in force for three years helped students to interact with NASA scientists and astronauts and understand various aspects of space travel and astronomy.
The government had recently discontinued the scheme saying it had failed to include all the meritorious students of the state. Instead, it announced that students would be taken to institutes like ISRO in Bangalore, JNU, IIT and IIM in New Delhi and other places. The Guwahati based NPS International School has, however, decided to send 20 students to NASA in the second week of September. This group is also expected to undergo astronaut training experience at NASA.
“Every year we send students to NASA. This year, we have decided to send a student with rural background, who is among the top five rank holders in the recently declared HSLC examination. The selection criteria will be totally on merit basis,” said Jitendra Nath Das, director, NPS International School.
“Our prime objective is to provide international exposure to students of the region. We want to contribute to the betterment of students in the rural areas of the state as well. We will keep on increasing the number of such meritorious Assam students with rural background to NASA in years to come,” Das said.
NPS International is the first school from the northeast to send students to NASA. So far, 37 students have visited the US under the scheme.
NASA plans on getting Martian samples to Earth from Mars
To know if life existed anywhere other than on Earth
Washington, Dec 11: (IANS) NASA has revealed how it plans to bring back Martian samples to Earth for the first time with the help of its next rover mission to the Red Planet, Mars 2020.
After landing on Mars, a drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal up these samples. Then, they will be deposited on the Martian surface for possible pickup by a future mission, NASA said.
“Whether life ever existed beyond Earth is one of the grand questions humans seek to answer,” said Ken Farley of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“What we learn from the samples collected during this mission has the potential to address whether we’re alone in the universe,” Farley said.
Mars 2020 relies heavily on the system designs and spare hardware previously created for Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012.
Despite its similarities to Mars Science Laboratory, the new mission has very different goals – it will seek signs of ancient life by studying the terrain that is now inhospitable, but once held flowing rivers and lakes, more than 3.5 billion years ago.
To achieve these new goals, the rover has a suite of cutting-edge science instruments.
It will seek out biosignatures on a microbial scale.
An X-ray spectrometer will target spots as small as a grain of table salt, while an ultraviolet laser will detect the “glow” from excited rings of carbon atoms.
A ground-penetrating radar will look under the surface of Mars, mapping layers of rock, water and ice up to 10 metres deep, depending on the material.
The rover is getting some upgraded Curiosity hardware, including colour cameras, a zoom lens and a laser that can vaporise rocks and soil to analyse their chemistry, NASA said.
The mission will also undertake a marathon sample hunt.
The rover team will try to drill at least 20 rock cores, and possibly as many as 30 or 40, for possible future return to Earth, NASA said.
Site selection has been another milestone for the mission. In February, the science community narrowed the list of potential landing sites from eight to three.
All three sites have rich geology and may potentially harbour signs of past microbial life. But a final landing site decision is still more than a year away.
“In the coming years, the 2020 science team will be weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each of these sites,” Farley said.
“It is by far the most important decision we have ahead of us,” Farley said.
The mission is set to launch in July/August 2020. (IANS)
When Mughal empire was brutally expanding under Aurangzeb, then the commander of Ahom dynasty, Lachit Borphukan made them taste their worst defeat in historic Battle of Saraighat
With mighty army of Mughals Aurangzeb was eyeing at Northeast India. But he was not aware of what fate his army will meet when they clash with Ahom dynasty of Assam under commandership of Lachit Borphukan, the man who shattered dreams of Mughal empire to conquest Northeast India. We are quite familiar with the valour of Maharana Pratap and Shivaji but somehow we were not told much about the unsung hero of Battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan. Battle of Saraighat would always be remembered for the victory of a much smaller Ahom army over the mighty Mughal Army, through a combination of tactical brilliance, guerrilla warfare and intelligence gathering. It was the last attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam.
The valiant Ahoms had successfully repulsed frequent attacks on their motherland since the time of Muhammad Ghori for around seventeen invasions.
The Mughals, were comparatively very well equipped, but failed to make any advances towards the Ahom army in the first phase of the war. So they offered Lachit Borphukan a bribe of one lakh rupees to abandon Guwahati but Lachit Borphukan refused to surrender.
From the capital city of Guwahti to the depths of the forests the Ahom warriors fought and held back the tide of invasion. The proud warriors of Central Asia, Mughals and Pathans alike were retreated by the valiant resistance of the Ahoms.
An incident in the history of Ahom resistance radiates the spirit which animated their fight for freedom, when Lachit Borphukan, the Army General of Ahom king Chakradhwaj Singha had beheaded his maternal uncle for dereliction of duty while preparing to face the Mughals. His execution of his own uncle for not showing sufficient dedication to the war effort was not just an act of impulse but a reminder to his soldiers that in the service of one’s Dharma, it is not possible to adopt double standards of judgement. This act of selflessness and dedication further motivated the troops, who were charged with full energy and enthusiasm to the battle field. Such examples are not very uncommon in Indian history where Dharma is upheld.
The reason why small Ahom army under Lachit Borphukan defeated mighty army of Mughals lies in the elaborate defense organized by him along the Brahamputra river which denied the use of the waterway to a large army of Aurangzeb comprising 1800 Turkish cavalry, 30,000 infantry and 500 cannons manned by the Portuguese. In the final stages of the battle, despite being seriously ill, he rallied his soldiers and personally led an assault forcing them to retreat. It is recorded that he said:“When my countrymen are suffering from invasion, and when my army is fighting and sacrificing its life, how can I think about resting my body due to a mere illness? How can I think about going home to my wife and children when my entire country is in trouble?”
The Mughal Commander-in-Chief, acknowledging his defeat by the Ahom soldiers and their Commander-in-Chief Lachit Barphukan, wrote, “Glory to the king! Glory to the counselors! Glory to the commanders! Glory to the country! One single individual leads all the forces! Even I, Ram Singh, being personally on the spot, have not been able to find any loophole and an opportunity!”
Lachit died soon after his victory at The Battle of Saraighat due to illness. It is sad that Lachit Borphukan is an unsung hero, let us give him the recognition he deserves, we must tell his tale of valour to coming generations and derive inspiration, he is an example that no matter how strong opponents and barbaric forces were, someone, somewhere resisted and fought against them for protection of motherland.
– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik
Sue Finley, now 80 years old and NASA’s longest-serving female employee, recalls her early days with the space agency when she worked as a human “computer,” calculating rocket trajectories by hand at a time when computers were huge and expensive to operate.
Finley arrived at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, in January 1958, one week before the U.S. Army launched Explorer 1, America’s first earth satellite.
“It was a very big deal,” she recalls of the launch, a response to the launches a few months earlier of the first satellites, Sputnik 1 and 2, from the former Soviet Union.
She was at JPL for Pioneer 1, the first satellite sent aloft by the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in late 1958, which marked the beginning of the international space race.
Unmanned space probes
Since then, Finley has had a role in nearly every U.S. unmanned space probe, and some missions of other nations.
There were failures to overcome and spectacular successes, but always new goals as scientists expanded our knowledge of the earth and solar system.
“We were certainly proud,” she says of NASA accomplishments, “but you just go to the next thing.”
Finley has been through several career changes with the space agency, one of the most important when NASA phased out human computers, moving, initially, to simple electronic versions.
“We got little tiny computers,” she recalls. “One I had 16 wires, jumper cables to code with. One had 10 pegboards that you programmed with.”
As modern computers took over navigational tasks, Finley developed and tested software as a subsystem engineer.
Among her career highlights: the Vega mission, a Soviet-French collaboration with Venus, and Halley’s Comet, which received navigational help from NASA and dropped balloons into the atmosphere of Venus.
She had to change the software for the antenna that tracked the mission, “and it worked,” Finley recalls. “Everything worked. That’s what was so exciting!”
Finley has worked since 1980 on NASA’s Deep Space Network, which coordinates satellite facilities in California, Spain and Australia that allow communication with space probes.
Highlights of NASA career
Career highlights include developing software that generates audio tones sent back from spacecraft, informing engineers on the ground what is happening in space. It was first developed for the Mars missions.
Each tone has a meaning that communicates data, noted one of Finley’s colleagues, Stephen Lichten.
“If a parachute opened, it would send a tone,” Lichten, manager for special projects for the Deep Space Network, said.
“The spacecraft lets go of its heat shield, and it would send a different tone, and so engineers like Sue were here listening for those special frequencies which told them the spacecraft was telling them what it has just done,” he said.
He notes that Finley also helped develop communication arrays that combine multiple antennas to act in unison and other advances that now crucial to space missions.
Lichten once shared an office with Finley and says she inspired her younger colleagues.
“There was a parade of people coming in constantly, to ask her advice, to ask her questions,” he recalls. “This was during the Venus balloon mission days and I realized that Sue was regarded as sort of a guru at JPL.”
Finley has been involved with nearly every advance in space communications in recent decades, and she continues her work today, Lichten said.
There are many more women at NASA today than there were when she started, and Finley said she tells young women to be inquisitive.
“I tell them to never be afraid to ask questions, never be afraid to say you don’t know,” she said.
After nearly six decades at the space agency, a mother of two grown sons and a mentor to her colleagues, Finley has no plans of retiring.
“There’s nothing else I want to do,” she said. “And so far, they need me.”
As they have since the earliest days of the space agency. (VOA)