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India’s Mars Orbiter Cruises Past Halfway Point

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India's Mars Orbiter Cruises Past Halfway Point

India’s Mars Orbiter Cruises Past Halfway Point

Bangalore: India’s maiden mission to Mars is on course, with its spacecraft Orbiter crossing the halfway mark on its voyage to the red planet, four months after it left Earth Dec 1.

“The spacecraft Wednesday at 9.50 a.m. crossed the halfway mark of its journey to Mars along the designated helio (sun)-centric trajectory in the solar orbit,” the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a statement here.

As the fourth planet from the sun, Mars is the second smallest celestial body in the solar system, at a distance of 400 million km (250 million miles) from Earth. Named after the Roman god of war, it is also known as the red planet due to the presence of iron oxide in abundance, giving it a reddish appearance.

“In terms of radio distance, the 1,337 kg Orbiter is cruising at 39 million km away from earth, travelling at 1.55 km per second in the sun’s orbit,” the space agency said.

As a signal from Earth to the spacecraft and back takes four minutes and 15 seconds, the high gain antennal onboard the spacecraft will be activated for handling communications with the ground stations.

The Rs.450-crore Mars Orbiter Mission was launched Nov 5 from Sriharikota spaceport off the Bay of Bengal, about 80 km north east of Chennai, onboard a 350-tonne rocket with five scientific instruments to detect methane in the Martian atmosphere, measure the thermal emission and capture images of the red planet from its orbit at a distance of 500 km.

The spacecraft’s journey through space is being monitored from India’s deep space network at Bylalu (about 30km from Bangalore) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US.

“As the Orbiter is on its designated trajectory, the trajectory correction manoeuvre, which was planned to be undertaken this month, is not considered essential,” the statement noted.

Space scientists and engineers are also conducting periodic tests at different levels of autonomy, built into the spacecraft for contingencies.

“The spacecraft and its five scientific instruments are in good health,” the statement added.

Though earth and Mars have an equal period of revolution around their axis, the red planet takes 24 hours and 37 minutes to complete a revolution. Earth takes around 365 days to orbit the sun and Mars 687 days.

Once the Orbiter is placed in the Martian orbit in mid-September, about 500 km from its red surface, its five indigenous instruments onboard will commence their scientific observations.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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