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Current Affairs 13th June 2024 for UPSC Prelims Exam

Spacex Starship

Context: SpaceX’s Starship rocket achieved its first fully successful test flight.

About Starship Rocket

Current Affairs 13th June 2024 for UPSC Prelims Exam_4.1

  • Overview: Starship is a two-stage heavy lift-off vehicle designed to transport crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
  • It is the largest rocket ever flown (120 metres tall), surpassing the Saturn V (111-metre), which took Neil Armstrong to the Moon.
    • For perspective, the Qutab Minar stands at 72.5 metres tall.
  • Super Heavy Booster: The booster consists of 33 Raptor engines, generating 74 meganewtons of thrust.
    • In comparison, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) produced 39 meganewtons of thrust, and Saturn V delivered about 35 meganewtons.
  • Engine Specifications: The Raptor engines use a 3.6:1 ratio of liquid oxygen (oxidizer) to liquid methane (fuel).
  • Reusability: SpaceX aims for the Super Heavy booster to be fully reusable, capable of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and landing back at the launch site.
    • The Starship spacecraft, equipped with six Raptor engines and four landing fins, is also designed to be fully reusable.

How Can Starship Reduce the Cost of Space Travel?

  • High Payload Capacity: Starship is expected to carry up to 150 tonnes to low-Earth orbit and at least 100 tonnes to the Moon and Mars, more than the total mass soft-landed on the Moon so far.
  • In-Orbit Refuelling: SpaceX is developing the capability for Starship to be refuelled in Earth orbit by other Starships, allowing it to operate like an aeroplane with quick turnaround times.
  • Rapid Reusability: Starship’s design ensures that its principal hardware elements are not discarded but brought back to the ground for reuse.
    • This is in contrast to other systems like NASA’s reusable Space Shuttle, which required extensive refurbishment.
  • Cost Efficiency: Estimates suggest that Starship can deliver up to 100 tonnes to Mars for just $50 million.
    • In comparison, the Space Shuttle, which was retired in 2011, cost $1.5 billion per launch to carry a quarter of Starship’s payload to low-Earth orbit.

Benefits to Science

  • Heavy Payload Capacity: Starship’s ability to carry large payloads will enable the launch of bigger and more advanced space telescopes, and larger equipment for Moon and Mars missions.
  • Enhanced Scientific Capabilities: Scientists can send full-sized drilling rigs and other large equipment, providing unprecedented access to the interior of the Moon and Mars.
  • Sample Return Missions: Starship’s reusability allows for the return of significant amounts of samples from the Moon and other planets, aiding scientific research on our solar system and the origin of life.
  • Support for NASA’s Artemis Program: Starship is central to NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon by 2030 and to Mars before the end of the next decade.

Challenges

  • Safety and Reliability: SpaceX needs to demonstrate that Starship is safe and reliable while keeping costs low.
  • Historical Context: The Space Shuttle program faced criticism for higher incremental costs of reusable shuttles compared to expendable rockets.
  • Development Hurdles: Despite rapid development, progress has been slower than anticipated, and it has come with significant costs.

Elephants Use Names To Communicate

Context: Researchers studying elephants have noticed that sometimes when an elephant makes a vocalisation to a group, all members respond, while other times only a single individual does. This led to the hypothesis that elephants might address each other by the equivalent of names.

Study Overview

  • A study involving wild African savannah elephants in Kenya supports this idea. Researchers analysed vocalisations of more than 100 elephants in Amboseli National Park and Samburu National Reserve.
  • These vocalisations were mostly rumbles produced using the elephants’ vocal cords, similar to human speech.
  • Methodology
    • Machine-Learning Analysis: The researchers used a machine-learning model to identify a name-like component in the calls, suggesting that a specific elephant was the intended addressee.
    • Audio Playback Experiment: Audio recordings were played to 17 elephants to observe their responses to calls apparently addressed to them versus calls meant for others.
  • Findings
    • Response to Calls: Elephants responded more strongly to calls addressed to them, displaying more enthusiasm, moving toward the audio source, and making more vocalisations.
    • Indication of Naming: The findings suggest that elephants address each other with something akin to names, as proposed by behavioural ecologist Mickey Pardo, the lead author of the study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
  • Implications
    • Social Bonds: Addressing one another individually highlights the importance of social bonds for elephants, emphasising the need for sophisticated learning and understanding of social relationships.
    • Communication Complexity: Elephants are known for their intelligence, keen memory, problem-solving skills, and sophisticated communication, which includes visual, acoustic, and tactile gestures during interactions.
  • Purpose of “Naming”
    • Contact Calls: Elephants often use names during contact calls to other individuals.
    • Maternal Communication: Mothers frequently use names when communicating with their calves to calm them or check in.
    • Greeting Ceremonies: Names were less common in greeting vocalisations than expected.
  • Comparison with Other Animals
    • Dolphins and Parrots: Like elephants, dolphins and parrots use individual-specific vocal labels, but they typically imitate the sounds made by others.
      • In contrast, elephants’ names appear to be arbitrary, similar to human names, indicating a capacity for abstract thought.

Future Prospects

  • Understanding Elephant Communication:There is a need for further research to understand the syntax and basic elements of elephant vocalisations.
  • Potential for Human-Elephant Communication: While the idea of “talking” with elephants is appealing, significant progress in understanding their communication system is necessary.
  • Intelligence and Conservation: The study underscores the intelligence and intriguing nature of elephants, aiming to foster greater interest in their conservation and protection.

Haiti

Context: Haiti’s transitional council appointed a new Cabinet, marking the final step in restructuring the government that will lead a country besieged by gangs.

About Haiti

  • Location: Situated between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.

Current Affairs 13th June 2024 for UPSC Prelims Exam_5.1

  • Island of Hispaniola:
    • Occupies the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola.
    • Shares a border with the Dominican Republic on the eastern side, Jamaica to the west and Cuba to the northwest..
  • Capital and Major Cities:
    • The capital city is Port-au-Prince.
    • Other major cities include Cap-Haïtien, Les Cayes, and Gonaïves.
  • Population: Haiti has an estimated population of around 11 million people.
  • Language: The official languages are Haitian Creole and French.
  • Government:
    • It is the second oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States.
    • A president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government.
    • The political situation has been unstable, with frequent changes in leadership and ongoing challenges related to governance.

Examples, Case Studies and Data

Air Pollution, Environment (GS 3): Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) has caused an alarming 135 million premature deaths globally between 1980 and 2020, according to a new study.

  • The research also underscores the impact of climate variability phenomena such as El Nino-Southern Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipole, and North Atlantic Oscillation in worsening PM2.5 pollution levels.

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