Daily Current affairs and Questions from The Hindu & PIB - May 27

What is Tianwen-1, China’s Mars mission?


The Tianwen-1 mission

  • The Tianwen-1 mission will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket, a launch system developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), from the Wenchang launch centre, and will carry 13 payloads (seven orbiters and six rovers) that will explore the planet. 
  • The ‘Tianwen-1’, which is expected to land on the Red Planet’s surface in the first quarter of 2021. The success of the mission will make China the third country to achieve a Mars landing after the USSR and the United States
  • Tianwen-1, an all-in-one orbiter, lander and rover will search the Martian surface for water, ice, investigate soil characteristics, and study the atmosphere, among completing other objectives.
  • As per a report in the Air and Space Magazine, the Chinese mission will be the first to place a ground-penetrating radar on the Martian surface, which will be able to study local geology, as well as rock, ice, and dirt distribution.
  • The Chinese mission is expected to take off in late July, around the same time when NASA is launching its own Mars mission– the ambitious ‘Perseverance’ which aims to collect Martian samples and bring them back to Earth in a two-part campaign.

China’s previous ‘Yinghuo-1’ Mars mission, which had piggybacked on a Russian spacecraft, had failed after it could not leave the Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

Previous Mars missions

  • The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing– its ‘Mars 3’ lander being able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing. The country made its second and Mars landing two years later in 1973.
  • The second country to reach Mars’s surface, the US, holds the record for the most number of Mars landings. Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the ‘InSight’ in 2019 (launched in 2018).
  • India and the European Space Agency have been able to place their spacecraft in Mars’s orbit. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or ‘Mangalyaan’ was able to do so in September 2014, almost a year after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.

Why locusts are being sighted in urban areas, what it can mean for crops

What are locusts and when are they are sighted in India?

  • The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is a short-horned grasshopper. Innocuous when solitary, locusts undergo a behavioural change when their population builds up rapidly. 
  • They enter the ‘gregarious phase’ by forming huge swarms that can travel up to 150 km per day, eating up every bit of greenery on their way. 
  • These insects feed on a large variety of crops.
  • If not controlled, locust swarms can threaten the food security of a country
  • At present countries in the Horn of Africa such as Ethiopia and Somalia are witnessing one of the worst locusts attacks in the last 25 years.

In India, locusts are normally sighted during July- October along the Pakistan border. Last year, parts of Western Rajasthan and Northern Gujarat reported swarms that caused damage to growing rabi crops. These were the first swarms reported in India since 1997. This year, the first sightings of small groups were reported early — on April 11

What led to their early arrival?

  • This can be traced back to the cyclonic storms Mekunu and Luban that had struck Oman and Yemen respectively in 2018
  • These turned large deserts tracts into lakes, facilitating locust breeding that continued through 2019. Swarms attacking crops in East Africa reached peak populations from November, and built up in southern Iran and Pakistan since the beginning of 2020, with heavy rains in East Africa in March-April enabling further breeding.

What can it mean to crops in India?

  • At present, chances of crop damage are low given that farmers have already harvested their rabi crop. 
  • The bigger problem will come once the present swarms breed. 
  • An adult female locust lays 80-90 eggs thrice in her three-month life cycle
  • If left uncontrolled, a swarm can grow exponentially to 40-80 million locusts per square kilometre, Gurjar and others estimatee. 
  • The locusts will start laying eggs after the monsoon starts and continue breeding for two more months, with newer generations rising during the growth phase of the kharif crop.

Glenmark to conduct ‘FAITH’ trials



  • Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd., has announced a new randomised, open label study to test the combined efficacy of two antiviral drugs — Favipiravir and Umifenovir — as a potential COVID19 treatment strategy.
  • The new combination clinical trial will be called FAITH – (FA vipiravir plus Um I fenovir (efficacy and safety) Trial in Indian Hospital setting).
  • As many as 158 hospitalised patients of moderate COVID19 infection will be enrolled in the combination study and randomised in two groups.
  • While one group will be receiving Favipiravir and Umifenovir (with standard supportive care), the other group will receive Favipiravir along with standard supportive care. Patients taking the drug will receive Faviprivir 1800 mg bid and Umifenovir 800 mg bid on Day 1. Thereafter, they will receive Faviprivir 800mg bid and Unifenovir 800mg bid for the remaining course of treatment. Duration of treatment will be 14 days and patients will be discharged after clinical cure and two consecutive negative tests.

Debt mutual funds

What are debt mutual funds?


  • Just like equity mutual fund schemes investing in equity or shares of listed companies, debt mutual funds invest in debt papers such as nonconvertible debentures, government securities, corporate bonds and certificate of deposits, among other instruments.
  • Simply put, debt schemes invest in fixed income securities and generate returns by earning interest income.


What kinds of schemes exist within the debt category?

  • The overall debt category of funds comprises many different kinds of debt schemes that are categorised on the basis of the kind of debt papers they invest in and the tenor of such instruments.
  • Some of the largest categories in terms of assets are liquid funds, short duration funds, corporate bond funds, overnight funds, banking and public sector undertaking funds, low duration funds, ultra short duration funds and money market funds.
  • The category also has a few other kinds of schemes such as credit risk funds, gilt funds, dynamic bond funds and medium to long duration funds.

EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD WEAKENS

As per the reports, the magnetic field around the earth, on an average, has lost almost 10% of its strength over the last two centuries. The magnetic field of the earth protects us from the solar radiation.

South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA):

  • However, a rapid shrink has been observed in the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA), a stretch between Africa and South America. It is an area where the Earth's inner Van Allen radiation belt comes closest to the Earth's surface, dipping down to an altitude of 200 kilometres.
  • This leads to an increased flux of energetic particles in this region and exposes orbiting satellites to higher-than-usual levels of radiation.
  • The effect is caused by the non-concentricity of the Earth and its magnetic dipole. The SAA is the near-Earth region where the Earth's magnetic field is weakest relative to an idealized Earth-centered dipole field.

Pole reversal:

  • One most speculated reason behind this is that there is a chance that the time for Earth's pole reversal is coming near.
  • Pole reversal is when the north and south magnetic poles flip. While this flip will not occur immediately or suddenly, and will happen over centuries, there would be multiple north and south magnetic poles during this period, all around the planet.
  • This is definitely not the first time that pole reversal will be happening on the Earth. This event has occurred few times in the history of our planet, as per the scientists and we are long overdue by the average rate at which these reversals take place (roughly every 250,000 years).

Impact:

  • This is not going to affect or alarm the general public to a huge extent.
  • But it is causing technical difficulties for various satellites and spacecrafts, as the magnetic field getting weaker, charged particles from the cosmos can penetrate through to the altitudes that low-Earth orbiting satellites fly at.
                                                                        MCQ
1) Consider the following statement on Tianwen-1
   1 .The Tianwen-1 mission will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket, a launch system developed by the         China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT)  .
   2.. The success of the mission will make China the fourth country to achieve a Mars landing after              the USSR ,United States and India
Identify the correct statement
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) both 1 and 2 only
d) Neither 1 nor 2


Answer 
1-a

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