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What is Europe’s JUICE spacecraft set to explore Jupiter’s icy moons?

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Europe’s JUICE spacecraft is all ready to embark on an eight-year odyssey through the Solar System to find out whether the oceans hidden under the surface of Jupiter’s icy moons have the potential to host extraterrestrial life.

For now, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is in a white room of its manufacturer Airbus in the southwestern French city of Toulouse. But its days on this planet are numbered.

Soon the spacecraft will be put in a container, wings carefully folded away, ahead of travelling to Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana off the coast of South America in early February.

From there, one of Europe’s most ambitious space missions ever is scheduled to launch in April.

The scientists and engineers in Toulouse who have spent years working on the project are clearly emotional at the thought of saying goodbye to what they call “the beast”.

They finally unveiled the six-tonne spacecraft to journalists on Friday — showing off its 10 scientific instruments, antenna 2.5 metres (eight feet) in diameter for communicating with Earth, and vast array of solar panels which still need to be tested one last time.

ALSO READ: Bam! NASA spacecraft crashes into asteroid in defense test | Watch

As a parting gift, a commemorative plaque was mounted on the back of the spacecraft in tribute to Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who was the first to spot Jupiter and its largest moons in 1610.

Volcanic Io and its icy siblings Europa, Ganymede and Callisto were “the first moons discovered outside of our own,” said Cyril Cavel, the Airbus project manager for JUICE.

Cavel carried a copy of Galileo’s “Sidereus Nuncius”, the first treatise based on observations made through a telescope.

More than 400 years later, JUICE will give a far clearer image of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, before becoming the first spacecraft to orbit around one of Jupiter’s moons.

Earth is ‘like a catapult’

It will be the first European space mission that ventures into the outer solar system, which begins beyond Mars.

Jupiter is more than 600 million kilometres (370 million miles) from Earth and JUICE will take a circuitous path before its scheduled arrival in July 2031.

The spacecraft will travel a total of two billion kilometres, using the gravity of Earth — then Venus — for a boost along the way.

“It’s like a catapult that gives us momentum to Jupiter,” said Nicolas Altobelli, JUICE project scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA).

The extra travel time will allow JUICE’s solar panels — which cover an area of 85 square metres, the largest ever built for an interplanetary spacecraft — to soak up as much power as possible.

It will need that power once it crosses the “frost line” between Mars and Jupiter, when temperatures could drop to minus 220 degrees Celsius.

Then JUICE will need to carefully hit the brakes so it can slip into Jupiter’s orbit. For that part, it’s on its own.

“We will follow the manoeuvre from Earth without being able to do anything — if it fails, the mission is lost,” Cavel said.

From Jupiter’s orbit, the satellite will make 35 flybys of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Then it will enter the orbit of Ganymede, the largest of the three, before eventually falling to its surface.

Not looking for ‘big fish’

JUICE’s ice-penetrating cameras, sensors, spectrometers and radars will probe the moons to determine whether they could be habitable to past or present life.

It will not be looking at the frozen surface of the moons but 10-15 kilometres below, where vast liquid oceans flow.

This extreme environment could be home to bacteria and single-celled organisms.

But the mission will not be able to detect “big fish, or creatures,” ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher said.

Instead it will look for conditions capable of supporting life, including liquid water and a source of energy, which could come from the tidal effect Jupiter’s gravity has on its moons.

Measuring magnetic signals could determine whether water on Ganymede is in contact with its rocky core, which would allow chemical elements necessary for life “to be dissolved into the water,” Altobelli said.

NASA’s Clipper mission is planned to launch in 2024 on its own quest to study Europa.

If one of the moons prove to be a particularly good candidate to host life, the “logical next step” would be to send a spacecraft to land on the surface, Cavel said.

He added that he was moved at the thought that JUICE “will end its life on the surface of Ganymede”.

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Rail minister announces India’s first hydrogen train; Know the technology

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Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday announced that India will have its first hydrogen train designed and manufactured locally by December 2023 on the Kalka-Shimla historic circuit. Although hydrogen-powered train technology is still in its infancy with only a few countries using it on a limited basis, India’s early adoption is regarded as a significant step toward green initiatives.

The upcoming hydrogen-powered trains will be known as Vande Metro. It will initially run on historic, narrow-gauge routes including the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, the Kalka Shimla Railwa y, the Matheran Hill Railway, the Kangra Valley, the Bilmora Waghai, and the Marwar-Devgarh Madriya, which will make travel more environmentally friendly.

ALSO READ: India’s AI focus on problem solving for agriculture, health and smart cities

What are hydrogen trains?

Hydrogen trains are those that use hydrogen fuel cells rather than traditional diesel engines. The hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity by converting hydrogen and oxygen, which is then used to power the train’s motors.

ALSO READ: ‘Better than airplanes’: Railway Minister terms Vande Bharat ‘outstanding’ train

The fact that hydrogen trains do not emit harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, or particulate matter makes them a more environmentally friendly option than traditional diesel trains. Another benefit is that hydrogen can be produced using renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, or hydro power, making the fuel supply for these trains clean and renewable.

ALSO READ: Green hydrogen mission: A boost for clean energy

Limitations to tackle before utilizing full potential

The high cost of hydrogen trains is a major impediment to their widespread use. Green hydrogen (hydrogen produced using renewable energy) costs about INR 492/kg in India, according to the research and ratings agency ICRA. As a result, the operating cost of a fuel cell-based hydrogen engine will be 27% higher than that of a diesel engine. There will also be the added cost of fuel cells and storage.

Safety issues should also be well considered before adapting the technology on mass usage.

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If ChatGPT were India’s finance minister, ‘ideal budget’ would look like this

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Budget season brings with it a flurry of demands from all sectors of the economy with expectations of tax relief and greater outlays. As all eyes were on the last full budget of the PM Modi government, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced several measures including major relief to taxpayers by raising the rebate limit to 7 lakh under a new tax regime.

Amidst expectations flying high, OpenAI’s artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT, too, had a few inputs. From acing US medical licensing exams to fixing bugs in computer code, the AI chatbot which uses Natural Language Processing has been going viral on social media.

If ChatGPT were the union finance minister, would it provide tax relief to the middle class and accelerate the GDP of the country? A Twitter user – whose handle is @aparanjape – shared the chatbot’s recommendations to the question “what is an ideal budget?”

According to ChatGPT, India’s union budget should focus on creating jobs and economic growth coupled with higher investments in the education, healthcare and infrastructure sectors. It also added that the fiscal deficit should be controlled and government spending should be reduced. And how do you lower the fiscal deficit? It has answers to that, too.

Austerity measures, raising tax revenue, slashing subsidies, reducing debt by limiting new borrowing, and focusing on investments in sectors with high economic return are some of the solutions provided by ChatGPT.

The Narendra Modi government will focus on economic growth and job creation and cut down the fiscal deficit, Sitharaman said, ironically similar to the ChatGPT budget. She also said the enhanced capex of 10 lakh crore for infrastructure development is at 3.3 per cent of the GDP.

A simplified and reformed tax system, with schemes to reduce income equality and poverty were suggested by the tool. Foreign investors and entrepreneurs should be incentivised with better ease of doing business and modernised technology, it stated. Steps to reduce carbon footprint and other sustainable initiatives should be implemented, while boosting the agriculture and rural sector. Sitharaman also focused on ‘green growth efforts’ to transition to a low-carbon intensity economy and increase green employment opportunities.

On taxation slabs, it suggested a basic exemption limit for all taxpayers to reduce the burden on low-income earners. The super rich should be levied a higher tax, while companies should be taxed at separate rates depending on the type of business. It also added a note that the details would vary depending on the politics and economy.

The Twitter user also shared more screenshots of ChatGPT offering measures in the field of agricultural subsidies, startups and measures to help India achieve double digit growth rates. Amused netizens joked that ChatGPT could “replace the finance minister and prime minister.” One user wrote, “It might do a much better job than our FM and PM!!

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday lauded Budget 2023, saying it will “fulfil dreams of aspirational society including poor people, middle-class people, farmers”.


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Intel cuts employee salaries, CEO pay by 25%: Report

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Bloomberg | | Posted by Ritu Maria Johny

Intel Corp., struggling with a rapid drop in revenue and earnings, is cutting management pay across the company to save cash it needs to invest in a turnaround plan.

Chief Executive Officer Pat Gelsinger is taking a 25% cut to his base salary, the chipmaker said Tuesday. His executive leadership team will see their pay packets decreased by 15%. Senior managers will take a 10% reduction, and the compensation for mid-level managers will be cut by 5%.

Hourly workers and employees below the seventh tier in the company’s system won’t be affected.

“As we continue to navigate macroeconomic headwinds and work to reduce costs across the company, we’ve made several adjustments to our 2023 employee compensation and rewards programs,” Intel said in a statement. “These changes are designed to impact our executive population more significantly and will help support the investments and overall workforce needed to accelerate our transformation and achieve our long-term strategy.”

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