India’s Chandrayaan-2 moon mission to take off on July 22, Isro confirms

On July 15, less than an hour before its 2:51 am scheduled take-off, the launch of Chandrayaan-2 had to be postponed due to a snag in its most powerful rocket.


Days after its scheduled take-off had to be postponed due to a technical glitch, India’s second mission to the Moon — Chandrayaan-2 — is now confirmed to be launched on Monday (July 22).

“Chandrayaan-2 launch, which was put off due to a technical snag on July 15, 2019, is now rescheduled for 2:43 pm IST on Monday, July 22, 2019,” said an Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) official.

Chandrayaan-2 was originally scheduled to take off in the first week of January but was rescheduled for 2:50 am on July 15.

It had to again be postponed after a snag was observed in its most powerful rocket, less than an hour before its launch from a spaceport. Isro scientists had put the launch on hold to assess the seriousness of the problem with the heavylift rocket GSLV Mk-III rocket carrying the satellite that put a halt to the ambitious Rs 976 crore lunar mission.

ALSO READ: Chandrayaan-2: A timeline of India’s mission to the moon from 2003 to 2019

The lift-off of the three-component spacecraft weighing 3,850 kg and comprising an orbiter, the lander and the rover will take place from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, off the coast of Andhra Pradesh.

The satellite is supposed to explore the uncharted lunar south pole, 11 years after Isro’s successful first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, which made more than 3,400 orbits around the moon and was operational for 312 days till August 29, 2009.

It will take 54 days to accomplish the task of landing on the moon through meticulously planned orbital phases.

Business Standard


India risking US ire? Pentagon against any country buying S-400 from Russia

India inked an agreement with Russia last October to procure a batch of the S-400 missile systems at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore.


Business Standard : The US is keen to make its defence partnership with India stronger, the Pentagon has said, but made it clear that it is against any country purchasing military equipment, including the S-400 missile defence system from Russia, that is designed to counter America’s sophisticated fifth-generation aircraft.

The remarks by a top Pentagon official came in response to a question on India going ahead with its decision to purchase the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.

India inked an agreement with Russia last October to procure a batch of the S-400 missile systems at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore.

“Our defence partnership with India I think is strong and we’re looking to make it ever stronger,” David J Trachtenberg, the deputy under secretary of defence for policy, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

When asked if the US can have a major defence partnership with India, which is going ahead with a decision to buy the S-400, Trachtenberg said, “I think the message we are sending is that we want to make sure that other countries are not purchasing equipment that is designed to counter our sophisticated fifth-generation aircraft.”

“The other message we’re sending is that we are consistent in our approach on this.”

Trachtenberg’s comments also come a day after President Donald Trump has announced that the US would not sell the F-35 fighter jets to Turkey after Ankara purchased the S-400 missile defence system from sanctions-hit Russia.

Trachtenberg said America’s decision to unwind Turkey’s participation in the F-35 programme was no surprise as its concerns had repeatedly been communicated to the Turkish government.

“Our reaction today is a specific response to a specific event. It is separate and distinct from the broader range of security interests where the United States and Turkey work together against common threats,” he said.

The official said the military-to-military relationship between the two countries remained strong. He added that the US would continue to participate with Turkey in multilateral exercises, as well as engage with the country on a broad range of NATO issues.

“While Turkey’s decision is unfortunate, ensuring the security and integrity of the F-35 programme and the capabilities it will provide to our partners remains our top priority,” Trachtenberg said.


Netflix to offer an affordable Rs 250 a month, mobile-only plan in India

Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between Rs 500 and Rs 800.


Netflix Inc said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India, tapping into a price-sensitive market where data consumption on smartphones is surging.

The video streaming pioneer said in March that it was testing a Rs 250 ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.

“We believe this plan … will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business in a market where Pay TV ARPU is low,” the company said.

Netflix‘s new plan is aimed at battling cheaper offerings from rivals such as Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.

Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between Rs 500 and Rs 800.

ALSO READ: Should Netflix be afraid of Apple?

In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and streams live sports, charges Rs 299 per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.

Netflix’s announcement was part of its quarterly results, in which it reported lower-than-expected subscriber additions.

India figures prominently in Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans. The company is investing heavily in creating blockbuster shows such as crime thriller “Sacred Games” and “Delhi Crime” with A-list Bollywood actors.

The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.

“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.


Nearly 30 new car, 20 two-wheeler launches lined up till March 2020

Rise of the millennial population, increasing disposable income and availability of innovative mobility solutions will drive the market.


Passenger vehicle (PV) and two-wheeler sales in the country have been bleak in the past few months, despite inquiries being good, due to poor consumer sentiment. To create excitement among consumers, especially during festivals, car manufacturers have lined up around 25-30 launches and two-wheeler makers have lined up another 20 between August 2019 and March 2020. The new launches include electric and hybrid vehicles.

On an average, car makers, excluding luxury ones, invest around Rs 1,500-2,000 crore to launch a new car.

Two-wheeler and PV retail sales dropped by five per cent and 4.6 per cent, respectively, in June 2019, compared to last year.

CARE Ratings says that demand might remain muted till the second quarter before it starts picking up from the third quarter due to festival and pre-buying before BS-VI implementation from April 1, 2020. Also, with higher MSPs announced, farm income is expected to be marginally higher and encourage rural spending.

To cash in on this, car makers have lined up nearly 25-30 new launches. Some of them include Maruti Suzuki Ertiga Cross and S-Presso, Hyundai New Grand i10, Tucson Facelift and Hyundai New Elite i20. Honda would be launching Honda HR-V and New City, while Tata would introduce the Buzzard and Altroz. Skoda expects to launch Karoq, and Renault to launch Renault Triber and Kwid Facelift.

Vikas Jain, national sales head, Hyundai Motor India Ltd, said that sometimes, a slowdown in the market is a cyclical phenomenon. Due to practical challenges such as volatility in fuel prices, high interest rates and increase in insurance premium, some of the buyers are deferring their purchase decision.

The long-term outlook is good considering that the penetration of PVs in India is still very low at around 20 out of 1,000 people. The rise of the young millennial population, increasing disposable income and availability of innovative mobility solutions will drive the market.

Business Standard


Future of food: Feeding 10 bn by 2050 requires genetically modified crops

Not only must crops be more productive, but the agricultural challenges of climate change-including disease, pests and periods of both drought and flooding-mean they must be more resilient as well.


Business Standard : Like it or not, genetic modification is going to be an important tool to feed the planet’s growing population.

If we want to feed 10 billion people by 2050, in a world beset by rising temperatures and scarcer water supplies, we will need to dramatically change the way we produce food. Increased public investment in technologies like genetic engineering is a vital piece of that, according to a report published Wednesday by the World Resources Institute.

Not only must crops be more productive, but the agricultural challenges of climate change—including disease, pests and periods of both drought and flooding—mean they must be more resilient as well.

We have to increase yields dramatically, at an even higher rate than we’ve done historically,” said Tim Searchinger, lead author of the report. “It’s got to be done by growing smarter.”

The Green Revolution of the 20th century boosted food production using many tools, some of which are no longer available to most of today’s farmers. Fertilizer use has largely been maxed out, Searchinger said, and available water is running dry. Now, researchers need to find new ways to “grow smarter,” including through the use of genetic modification.

While public debate has centered on its two primary uses—in soybeans and corn for resistance to the pesticide glyphosate and production of a natural insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), in corn and cotton—the WRI implores us to look further. “We do not believe that debate over these particular GM traits should dictate policy about the entire technology of genetic engineering,” the report says.

Instead, the report points out that genetic modification saved the Hawaiian papaya population from a deadly virus, and says it may be able to do the same for potatoes in Uganda, soybeans in Brazil and tomatoes in Florida.

Everyone exaggerates the benefits and costs of these two traits of GMOs,” Searchinger said. “There are so many other things we can do, it’s hard to imagine why we’d be against it.”

The report also emphasizes the need for better breeding, laying out a four-pronged approach for increasing yields, each of which will require more public funding. First, breeding cycles need to be sped up, focusing not just on major improvements but also smaller, incremental ones.


CURRENT AFFAIRS, Finance, Markets

Anti-patriotic’: RSS wing says India must not issue foreign currency bonds

They say it is anti-patriotic as it could create long-term risks for the economy, potentially allowing rich foreign nations and their financial institutions to dictate the country’s policies.


An influential Hindu nationalist group close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party has demanded his government review its plan to raise money by selling foreign currency bonds.

They say it is anti-patriotic as it could create long-term risks for the economy, potentially allowing rich foreign nations and their financial institutions to dictate the country’s policies.

“We can’t allow this to happen,” declared Ashwani Mahajan, the co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

ALSO READ: Budget 2019: In a first, India to issue sovereign bonds in global market

The RSS was the key founder of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and has people it nurtured in top positions in the government, including Modi himself.

Declaring that the SJM will campaign against the plan by convening meetings of influential economists, Mahajan said: “We are confident that government will withdraw its decision on these bonds.”

“We must look at the experience of countries that have taken loans from international markets to meet their government deficit. The experience of these countries has been far from good,” he said, citing Argentina and Turkey as examples.

Mahajan said going overseas to borrow may mean that the rupee currency depreciates at a faster rate and allows foreign governments to demand tariff reductions.

A Finance Ministry spokesman declined to comment for this story.

Speaking at a business summit in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed hope that the Indian government would choose the British capital as the location to issue its first international sovereign bonds.

New Delhi has not so far given any details about where they will be issued.

Subhash Chandra Garg, the top official at the Finance Ministry, told Indian business leaders last week that the overseas debt move was part of efforts to bring down real interest rates for Indian firms, to help the economy grow faster…. : Like it or not, gene



One small step for a man’: Did we mishear Armstrong’s first words on Moon?

Armstrong insisted that he actually said, ‘That’s one small step for a man.’ In fact, in the official transcript, Nasa transcribes the quote as ‘that’s one small step for (a) man’.


Business Standard : On July 20, 1969, an estimated 650 million people watched in suspense as Neil Armstrong descended a ladder towards the surface of the Moon.

As he took his first steps, he uttered words that would be written into history books for generations to come: “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

Or at least that’s how the media reported his words.

But Armstrong insisted that he actually said, “That’s one small step for a man.” In fact, in the official transcript of the Moon landing mission, NASA transcribes the quote as “that’s one small step for (a) man.”

As a linguist, I’m fascinated by mistakes between what people say and what people hear.

In fact, I recently conducted a study on ambiguous speech, using Armstrong’s famous quote to try to figure out why and how we successfully understand speech most of the time, but also make the occasional mistake.

Our extraordinary speech-processing abilities

Despite confusion over Armstrong’s words, speakers and listeners have a remarkable ability to agree on what is said and what is heard.

When we talk, we formulate a thought, retrieve words from memory and move our mouths to produce sound. We do this quickly, producing, in English, around five syllables every second.

The process for listeners is equally complex and speedy. We hear sounds, which we separate into speech and non-speech information, combine the speech sounds into words, and determine the meanings of these words. Again, this happens nearly instantaneously, and errors rarely occur.

These processes are even more extraordinary when you think more closely about the properties of speech. Unlike writing, speech doesn’t have spaces between words. When people speak, there are typically very few pauses within a sentence.

Yet listeners have little trouble determining word boundaries in real time. This is because there are little cues – like pitch and rhythm – that indicate when one word stops and the next begins.