Current Affair-April 24, 2021

Oxygen on Mars

  • A device aboard the Perseverance rover was able to produce oxygen from the thin Martian atmosphere for the first time.
  • It promises hope for future crewed missions that can rely on this technology for astronauts to breathe and return to Earth.

How did Perseverance produce oxygen on Mars?

  • The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) produced 5 grams of oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. It is enough for an astronaut to breathe for 10 minutes.
  • On Mars, carbon dioxide makes up ~96% of the gas in the planet’s atmosphere. Oxygen is only 0.13%, compared to 21% in Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Like a tree on Earth, MOXIE inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen.
  • To produce oxygen, MOXIE separates oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules. It does so by using heat at a temperature of around 800 degrees Celsius. In the process it also produces carbon monoxide as a waste product, which it releases in the Martian atmosphere.
  • MOXIE is only a test model. Future oxygen generators that descend from its technology need to be about 100 times larger to support human missions on Mars.

Why is producing oxygen on the Red Planet so important?

  • A substantial amount of oxygen supply on Mars is essential for crewed missions that plan to go there– not just for astronauts to breathe but for rockets to use as fuel while coming back to Earth.
  • Human Missions job  would become significantly easier if the liquified oxygen can be produced on the Red Planet.
Source: Indian Express


Context: PM Modi launched the distribution of e-property cards under the SWAMITVA scheme.

About the scheme

  • SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) was launched by Prime Minister on 24th April 2020.
  • It is a Central Sector Scheme to promote a socio-economically empowered and self-reliant rural India.
  • It paves the way for using the property as a financial asset by villagers for availing loans and other financial benefits.
  •  The Scheme will cover around 6.62 Lakh villages of the entire country during 2021-2025.


  • The pilot phase of the Scheme was implemented during 2020–2021 in the States of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and select villages of Punjab and Rajasthan.
  • Under the scheme, the entire village properties are  surveyed  by drone and property card are distributed to the owners.

Significance of scheme

  • The Scheme has the potential to transform rural India using modern technical tools of mapping and surveying.
  • It has infused a new confidence in the villages  as property documents remove uncertainty and reduce the chances of property disputes while protecting the poor from exploitation and corruption.
  • It eases credit possibility.
  • The scheme furthers the aim of keeping villages at the centre of all its policies and initiatives.
Source: PIB

New technology to recycle aluminium scraps

  • A cost-effective technology to recycle aluminum scraps efficiently has been developed by a team of scientists.
  • The technology was developed with support from the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies programme of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India aligned with the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

About the technology

  • The technology system could combine value added / non-value added and hazardous / non-hazardous wastes, aluminium alloys and assorted scraps for industrial applications and recycle them efficiently.
  • The technology will minimize material losses in the process, which can be used by small and medium scale industries.
  • The developed technology can be used in tiny & cottage Industries, Small Scale Industries and MSME Aluminium foundries and recycling industries.

Conventional Aluminium recycling techniques

  • It require high investment in processing and generate dangerous residues in form of ferrous (Fe), tin (Sn), lead (Pb) and burning of Mg in the crucible red hot.
  • It involves manual separation and sorting of magnesium alloys, ferrous alloys and high silicon alloys etc.
  • The separated magnesium is hazardous to the environment.

New technology

  • The new technology increases the purity and quality of recycled aluminium melt.
  • It involves washing the basic inputs, drying and preheating, removal of basic impurities in melting furnace, degassing in nitrogen atmosphere and addition of alloying elements in holding furnace, filtering (refining) and pouring the metal into the mold.
  • Three problems are addressed during the process. Separation of iron and silicon materials, preventing the loss of magnesium and adding of other elements like chromium to improve the mechanical properties under the prescribed limits.
  •  The conversion rate in the existing technology is 54% and with the new technology developed, the conversion rate has been increased by 70% to 80%.

Work in progress

  • The team is further working on recycling of aluminium to suit medium and large scale industries.
  • They are in the process of mapping the results obtained with the small scale furnaces to the large scale furnace and conducting studies on purity post aluminium refining.
  • This technology will be further upgraded with an advanced aluminium induction furnace capable of heat recovery could be successfully implemented in the small-scale industries.
Source: PIB

Webinar on “Genome Sequencing of SARS-CoV-19”

  • The Department of Biotechnology yesterday conducted a public webinar on the “Genome Sequencing of SARS-CoV-19″.
  • The webinar aimed at demystifying the science behind mutations in the viral genome, viral genome sequencing, and public health implications of the mutations in the viral genome.

Key highlights given in webinar:

  1. Mutations arise through spontaneous errors during the replication of the virus. Some mutations may allow the virus to survive better and evade antibody response and therefore can provide selective advantage to the virus.
  2. A Variant of Concern (VoC)may have higher transmissibility or can cause a more severe disease; or can show reduced neutralization by antibodies.
  3. RT-PCR has been the corner stone of diagnostic ever since the pandemic started. RT-PCR system being used  is able to detect all the variants which have so far been reported from the country.
  4. Reasons behind the false-negative RT-PCR test reports could be sampling error, delays in the screening of individuals and non-adherence of Standard Operating Procedures during transportation of the kits.
  5. There is no scientific term such as “double” or “triple” mutation of virus. The terms double or triple mutants are colloquial and these are used to emphasize features of a variant.
  6. Double or triple mutations as used recently in various media reports, were to signify the number of mutations which escape immunity (immune escape mutant). These variants otherwise harbour 15 lineage defining mutations.
  7. It is advisable while reporting on mutants, standard WHOs Uniform variant nomenclature be used ( for example- B.1.617) when referring to such variants.
  8. Clinical correlations and epidemiological correlation data determines if the mutation of the virus is a Variant of Interest (VoI) or Variant of Concern (VoC).
  9. The reasons for current surge are primarily:
  • Non-adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour.
  • Rising immune escape mutations and some that also increase infectivity.
  •  Declining immunity
Source: PIB

Crew-2 Mission

  • Four astronauts were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) from Florida under the Crew-2 mission .
  • Crew-2 Mission is part of a collaboration between NASA and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Program.
  • It is the second crew rotation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first with international partners.
  • Out of the four astronauts, two are from NASA and two are from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

What will Crew-2 do at the ISS?

  • Starting mid-November 2020, Crew-1 team members joined members of Expedition 64 and conducted microgravity studies at the ISS. Research included materials to investigate food physiology meant to study the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome and how those improvements can help crews adapt to spaceflight.
  • Crew-2 astronauts will join the members of Expedition 65. They will stay aboard the ISS for six months during which time they will conduct science experiments in low-Earth orbit.
  • Central focus will be to continue a series of Tissue Chips in Space studies.

Tissue Chips

  • Tissue Chips are small models of human organs that contain multiple cell types that behave similarly to the human body. These chips can potentially speed up the process of identifying safe and effective drugs and vaccines.
  • Many changes occurring in the human body during spaceflight resemble the onset and progression of aging and diseases on Earth but occur much more quickly in microgravity. Therefore, scientists can use these tissue chips in space to study diseases that affect specific human organs, which would take months or years to develop on Earth.

Commercial Crew Program

  1. The main objective of this program is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research. NASA plans to lower its costs by sharing them with commercial partners.
  2. By encouraging private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to provide crew transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA can focus on building spacecraft and rockets meant for deep space exploration missions.
Source: Indian Express

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