Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (9th October)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. The diaspora and disasters

  • This article assumes importance in the wake of the devastating floods that affected the state of Kerala.
  • The Western Ghats is regarded as one of the eight ‘hottest’ biodiversity hotspots in the world.
  • Kerala accounts for nearly 18% of the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats.
  • It is important to note that there were allegations of ‘human blunders’ while the government said that it couldn’t have done anything more.
    The fact of the matter is that India has not learnt its lessons from recent floods, in the states of Assam, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. Crucially, without addressing the underlying causes, history will repeat itself in another state of our country, if not in Kerala.

The Underlying Causes:

  • The first cause is that of ‘Reluctant dam managers’.
  • In the state of Kerala, as is with the case of other states, more flooding was caused by emergency releases from dams that were full.
    In fact, according to a World Bank analysis, while preparing the National Hydrology Project (NHP) in 2015 showed that although weather forecasts are more accurate now, dam managers, who are especially bureaucrats are reluctant to authorise advance controlled releases.

Why is this so?

  • Experts believe that this is partly because of the fact that operating schedules are not based on predicted rainfall.
  • Currently, the world has moved to dynamic reservoir operations based on weather forecasts.
  • It is important to also mention that the political leadership and the bureaucracy too do not tolerate mistakes. As a consequence of this, dam managers are reluctant to risk their careers and order controlled releases in advance.
  • The National Hydrology Project (NHP) is improving hydro-meteorological and weather forecasting systems across India. Having said this, it is felt that unless dam managers feel free to take credible risks, these will not be used for dynamic reservoir operations.
  • It is increasingly felt by many experts that a ‘plan B’ is also needed for water scarcities such as basin-scale water modelling and analysis supporting contingency planning (inter-basin transfers, linking canals to intermediate storage structures, and water re-allocation to higher-priority uses). Unfortunately, none of these exist in India today.

The second cause is that of Blocked waterways.

  • Unfortunately, the story across Kerala is that roads, railway lines and housing colonies are being laid and built without regard for natural waterways, but with formal planning permission.
  • Further, the State Department of Inland Waterways focuses on large waterways while district and local panchayats have no mandate or interest in maintaining these to reduce flood risk. The State Disaster Management Agency also ignores them.

The third is Unprepared populations.

  • In spite of the fact that India is a signatory to the UN’s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, unfortunately, little has changed on the ground.
  • In Kerala, most people were caught unawares by the ferocity of the flooding.
  • Had information been disseminated and absorbed earlier, disaster risks could have been greatly reduced.

A Note on the Gadgil Panel:

    • In the past, the Centre had constituted a panel known as the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP).
    • This panel was a 14-member panel under the chairmanship of noted ecologist, Madhav Gadgil.
    • This panel was tasked to look into measures to arrest the ecological devastation from human activities in the Western Ghats.
  • It is important to note that the 1600-km-long mountain range of Western Ghats is a fragile ecosystem.
  • The Gadgil panel submitted its report in 2011.

Some of the Key Recommendations:

  • The Gadgil Committee divided the Western Ghats into three ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ).
  • These are the highest (ESZ1), high (ESZ2) and moderate sensitivity (ESZ3) zones.
  • This is in addition to the Protected Areas managed under acts such as the Wildlife Protection Act.
  • It suggested that ESZ1 and ESZ2 would be largely ‘no-gone’ zones.
  • So mining, polluting industries as well as large-scale development activities, including new railway lines are restricted.
  • It also objected to new dams, thermal power stations or massive windmill farms or new townships in ESZ1.
  • The panel however gave importance to the local communities and gram sabhas.
  • They were given a larger say in deciding on matters relating to the ecology of these regions.
  • It also called for the following:
  1. Stricter regulation on tourism.
  2. Phasing out of plastics and chemical fertilisers.
  3. A ban on diversion of forest land into non-forest applications.
  4. A ban on conversion of public lands into private lands.

What followed the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee has been the subject of much debate.

  • The Gadgil panel report was rejected by the then Union Environment Minister.
  • The Gadgil report was also unacceptable to any of the six Western Ghats States.
  • These states included that of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat as well as Pondicherry (UT).
  • A year later, the government appointed a new committee under the chairmanship of K Kasturirangan.
  • It is believed that the Gadgil panel faced stiff resistance from all political parties, particularly in Kerala. Further, a large part of the ecologically sensitive zones belonged to private citizens.

A Brief Note on the Kasturirangan Committee Recommendations:

  • The Kasturirangan committee did away with the graded approach in terms of ecological sensitivity.
  • It committee divided the Western Ghats into cultural lands (where there are currently human settlements) and natural lands.
  • It recommended declaring cultural lands into ecologically sensitive area (ESA).
  • This spanned around 60,000 sq-km or 37% of the total area.
  • Recently, the Environment Ministry notified an area of around 56,000 sq km in the Western Ghats as ESA.
  • In Kerala, the Kasturirangan committee had proposed an area of 13,000 sq km as ESA. However, under pressure from the Kerala government, the notified area was brought down to less than 10,000 sq km.

International Perspective:

  • Weather disasters are being affected by climate change, which is in turn, being caused by humans.
  • As a consequence of this, the devastation is worsened by the collective failure of governments and businesses to invest in building resilience despite the evidence on runaway climate change.
  • From a historical perspective, we learn lessons from the recent Kerala floods, Hurricane Harvey (Houston, U.S., 2017) and Typhoon Haiyan (the Philippines, 2013).
    What we must take note of is that responses to disasters must be proactive, not just reactive.
  • Most modern cities have elaborate flood management plans (underground flood basins and spare riverbeds in the Netherlands).

Editorial Analysis:

    • Between August 8th and 20th, 2018,  the devastating floods in Kerala claimed nearly 500 lives. Further, the floods displaced over a million people, and directly affected over a sixth of the State’s total population.
    • As a matter of fact,  the State government’s latest report estimates the losses to be more than the State’s annual plan.
    • It is important to note that this was the worst flood in Kerala since 1924.
    • In the floods that occurred in 1924, the State received 650 mm of rain compared to 2,344 mm this time. However, the impact was similar.
    • Currently, the difficult task of rebuilding the state of Kerala has begun.
    • Contributions to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) have crossed more than ₹1,680 crore. The Chief Minister of Kerala is confident that the State would be able to overcome the shortage of funds by mobilising its own resources and through support from different quarters.
  • However, for the state of Kerala, the most important support system is the Malayali diaspora across the world.

A Note on the Malayali Diaspora:

  • Currently, there are over 2.1 million Malayali emigrants globally and 1.3 million return migrants.
  • The advantage that the state of Kerala has at this point, is to engage with its migrants and diaspora who have been instrumental in rebuilding the destination economies after natural calamities and economic crises.
  • In the wake of the floods in Kerala, the state of Kerala has received extraordinary support from other sovereign states with large diaspora populations such as in West Asia, multinational corporations employing Malayalis, and by the diaspora itself.

Role of Diaspora (An International Perspective):

  • After the earthquake in 2010 in Haiti, ‘the Haitian diaspora in the U.S. served as a conduit for doctors, nurses, engineers, educators, advisers and reconstruction planners.
  • As a matter of fact, Haitian-Americans continue to be vital in long-term recovery. They have been instrumental in supplies, remittances, sharing human and financial resources, lobbying governments, international organisations and corporations for disaster relief and redevelopment funding, and in facilitating eased travel restrictions.
  • Another example worth mentioning here is from the state of Nepal. In Nepal, after the 2015 earthquake, the Non-Resident Nepali Association collected $2.69 million, mobilised over 300 volunteers including doctors and nurses, and pledged to rebuild 1,000 disaster resilient houses.

The scope of a Healthy Diaspora:

    • In the state of Kerala, the migrant community and diaspora moved swiftly to organise an Internet-driven response.
    • By sharing and re-sharing vital information on affected regions and people, supplies, and precautionary measures (on social media platforms), they were instrumental in expanding the flow of information that would later be used by politicians, private and military rescue operations, and relief workers.
    • It is important to note that successful diaspora groups are among the largest contributors to the CMDRF.
  • These diaspora groups will be invaluable in mobilising resources, talent, and knowledge which will be integral in rebuilding the State.
  • For example, in a recent report, the Kerala Health Department has made it clear that there will be a 100% increase in the demand for pharmaceutical drugs.
  • These pharmaceutical drugs can be sourced quickest through transnational diaspora networks. As the diaspora is one of the greatest assets of Kerala, communities should improve relations with diaspora groups. Return migrants should also act as liaison agents.

Concluding Remarks:

Regarding Contribution from the Diaspora:

  • With the depreciation of the Indian rupee, the State can relaunch foreign currency deposit schemes.
  • An example of such a scheme was the hugely successful India Millennium Deposit Scheme which was introduced in 2000 by the Centre to leverage higher values of foreign currencies so as to overcome financial and economic crises.
  • A few questions need to be answered: For example- Kerala has close to 3 million migrants from other States to replace Keralites who left to West Asia (also known as replacement migration). Have they been affected by the floods? Are they likely to participate in the reconstruction of the economy of Kerala or leave for their home States for better opportunities?  We as a society should ask ourselves what the future of emigration, return emigration, internal migration and remittances from Kerala will be in the coming years.

Regarding Reconstruction:

  • Firstly, reconstruction efforts must involve rebuilding in a better way.
  • Experts believe that climate proofing in Kerala calls for structures to be built with wind- and water-resistant materials. It should be noted that the higher cost will be more than offset by avoided repairs. Secondly, people need to relocate out of harm’s way.
  • Thirdly, early warning is vital. The importance of this is highlighted by the fact that because of investments in these systems, Cyclone Phailin (2013) claimed less than 40 lives in Odisha, whereas the super-cyclone in 1999 in the State had killed 10,000 people.
  • Unfortunately, in Kerala, there was no timely forecast from national weather services. Experts believe that the State needs a reliable flood forecasting capability.
  • Fourthly, there needs to be tougher implementation of logging and mining regulations in fragile ecologies. It is important to note that deforestation worsened the effects of Kerala’s floods and mudslides, as the report of the Western Ghats ecology expert panel 2011 had warned.

Usage of New Technologies and Certain Corrective Measures:

  • Further, it is suggested that River-basin specific flood inundation modelling with climate change simulations is a necessary first step to understand the full impact of potential unprecedented flooding.
  • River-basin specific flood inundation modelling with climate change simulations includes worst-case scenarios such as twice the maximum historical rainfall.
  • The next important aspect is that the local community should co-manage water resources with the government. This can be done by planning intermediate storage, drainage and emergency responses.
  • Further, there must be massive awareness generation, to ensure that airports are not extended into river floodplains. This is an unfortunate situation witnessed with the  Chennai airport and the Adyar river.
  • It is important to address issues such as  deforestation, encroachment and unplanned construction.
  • India must use the best-available information for decision-making. This would include,
    a) improved hydromet systems and weather forecasts,
    b) robust modelling of catchment water flows with simulations of different climate-related scenarios,
    c) international norms for safety factors and building codes.
  • India must also prioritise buffers, flexibility and adaptability. This includes:
    1. reviewing safety criteria of dams and canals,
    2. re-building these with higher safety factors,
    3. creating new intermediate storages, and introducing dynamic reservoir management.
  • The Kerala floods are estimated to have cut off about 2.2% of the State’s GDP.
  • Bolstering resilience must be made central to recovery.
  • Lastly, multilateral agencies including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank may be well-positioned to provide financing. This is vital when budgets are stretched.
  • We must also reduce the vulnerability of the poor who pay a disproportionately higher cost in calamities

2. Power politics at play

  • This development takes place just a few months before the next general election.
  • The proposed amendments seek to enable a market transformation in electricity.
  • It is important to note that the link between political power and electrical power is widely known. Further, it promises important political currency.

What does this bill aim to do?

    • The changes to the Electricity Act 2003 are intended to increase reliability and reduce risk in the power sector.
    • In particular, the problem of failing on power purchase agreements (PPAs) is being taken up.
  • It is important to note that a power purchase agreements (PPA) is a contract between the one who generates electricity and one which is looking to purchase it.
  • Further, power purchase agreements (PPAs) are sometimes broken or renegotiated by distribution companies. These distribution companies are known as discoms.
  • This has led to changes in the cash flow of power plants, rendering them unprofitable.
  • In a few cases, this has led to investments in generation turning into non-performing assets.
  • This is, in turn, contributing to the ongoing bad loans crisis in public sector banks.
  • It is important to note that in India, consumers are not often charged the amount that their power actually costs.

A Quick look at some of the Proposed Amendments:

  • The draft amendments suggest penalties for failing to honour PPAs.
  • It prescribes up to Rs 10 million a day, and the suspension or even cancellation of a licence. It is also proposed that cross subsidisation of power be phased out.

What is Cross-subsidisation?

  • Cross-subsidisation refers to discoms charging higher prices from certain users to make up for under-charging others.
  • For example: Cross subsidies of household consumers by industrial purchasers of power

Editorial Analysis:

  • It is important to note that historically, there has been a scarce expenditure of political capital on this issue.
  • Further, bringing in competition and choice in supply for the final consumer has long been an aim of electricity reform and remains central to these amendments.
  • The central idea here is that while a single public utility will run the wires through which electricity flows, multiple supply licensees (both public and private) will be allowed to compete for consumers.
  • The intent behind this is that the discipline of competing for customers will lead to improved supply and lower bills. However, the global track record on this approach is far from definitive.

Possible Negatives:

  • As a consequence to this initiative, India could have an electricity distribution sector with pockets of competition for wealthy consumers in a sea of monopoly inhabited by the poorest.
  • Further, private suppliers could cherry-pick profitable locations and consumers, while the state-owned incumbent supplier will be left with the obligation to serve low-paying consumers.

Some more Specifics:

  • Some of the concerns expressed above can be overcome. This can be done if there were a mechanism to support the second group.
  • This currently happens through ‘cross-subsidy’ from wealthier customers. However, the idea of ‘cross-subsidy’ as well is being changed under the amendments.
  • This leaves only the possibility of direct support from States. If these transfers are not forthcoming, or late, the cash-starved incumbent supplier will be locked into a cycle of poor quality of service for its customers who have no ‘exit’ option, leading to more bill evasion, and further financial deterioration.
  • It is important to note that the proposed legislation makes subsidy to the poor the collective responsibility of the States and the Centre.
  • So far this has only been the responsibility of each State. Notably, the Centre may have access to enhanced tax revenues from electricity because it stands to gain from additional tax revenue from profitable new wires companies and private suppliers. Thus, as a consequence, the Centre could become a new fulcrum of redistribution from wealthy areas in wealthy States, to needy customers that are concentrated in a few States.
  • There is another side to the coin that needs to be discussed as well. This would provide greater control to the Centre and limit the States’ and regional political parties’ capability to make electoral use of electricity pricing.
  • Thus, the politics of power prices will shift from sub-national to national electoral politics.

A Look at the Indian Context:

    • It is important to note that India has among the highest electricity tariffs for industry. The costs borne by industries, bears the burden of low-performance and losses among other consumers, impacting their global competitiveness.
    • However, this shift could be highly disruptive if the profit-making side is allowed to flee, without devising a transition pathway for the loss-making side of electricity.
    • It is important to note that subsidies will not be allowed across consumer categories like industry and agriculture, but will be allowed across consumption categories. Thus, arising from this, big consumers can subsidise small ones.
    • Further, big industrial consumers will see no effective change, although small business consumers will escape payment of subsidy.
  • It is important to note that the whole idea of making pricing system fairer, more rational, and more predictable is crucial to develop a sustainable power sector.
  • The central idea behind the Bill is essentially to end cross subsidies, which would, in turn, rationalise power consumption and pricing.
  • It will force an increase in the tariffs that are charged to lower-end households and to farmers.

A Few Open Questions:

  • Some open questions arise. For example: Where is support for poorer customers going to come from? The amendment recognises the need to subsidise the poor, but mandates this be done through direct benefit transfers. However, identifying and targeting beneficiaries remains a challenge.
  • Moreover, with these changes, the mechanism of support for poorer customers will shift from the electricity customer to the taxpayer. Cross-subsidies are certainly distorting.
  • However, the solution requires the electricity sector to assert its claims for support in competition.

A Centralizing Tendency?

  • The amendments have a few centralising dimensions.
  • For example: the amendment proposes a re-formulation of the selection committee for State regulators, from a majority of State representatives to a majority of Central representatives.
  • The Centre will also gain more oversight on capacity addition. This oversight on capacity addition will be gained through the requirement of detailed project report submission to the Central Electricity Authority.
  • It is important to note that although there is no doubt that State performance has been poor on both fronts. But experts believe that the amendments reflect a clear choice of solution: re-direct responsibility to the Centre instead of fixing the process in the States.
  • On a positive side, the amendments include many other provisions, most notably around making the Act more up to date with regard to renewable energy, which is a worthy objective.
  • However, in terms of the big questions, it places its bets on more competition, subsidy reform, a steering role for the Centre and throwing a lifeline to generators.

Concluding Remarks:

  • There is no doubt that the status quo is unsatisfactory.
  • Currently, India’s electricity sector remains fraught with problems.
  • In conclusion, disruptive change in Indian electricity may be needed, even inevitable. But the amendments risk placing the cost of disruption on the backs of the poorest, and shifts the potential for remedial measures to the hands of the Centre, rather than the States.

3. A local approach to climate change

  1. In the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change has reported that the world could hit the 1.5°C mark as early as 2030, with any further rise having far-reaching consequences
  2. The consequences of climate change—ranging from a rise in mean temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns to a rise in drought frequency, flood hazards and coastal risk—will hit the global south particularly hard
  3. Another recent study in Nature Climate Change quantified the domestic social costs of carbon emissions. At approximately $90/tonne, the cost to India is the highest in the world

Role of local governments

  1. The UN report notes that the different pathways to limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems
  2. Much of that falls in the domain of state or urban policy
  3. National goals and policies are necessary, but the stark difference in pollution levels between industrialized states and forested states, for instance, demands a complementary localized approach
  4. Cities contribute a disproportionate share of greenhouse gas emissions
  5. Especially in India, they are also the most susceptible to climate change consequences, given that large segments of the urban population are concentrated along coastlines, rivers and floodplains

Other factors 

  1. The main culprits when it comes to emissions are the power and transport sectors
  2. Looking at the transport sector through the prisms of land-use planning and transit-oriented development would be useful here
  3. The water and sanitation sectors are other pressure points, responsible for vast amounts of methane emissions
  4. Methane has been observed to be 25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas but is still dismissed as a temporary pollutant

Gaps in city planning

  1. Shoddy planning, tardy implementation and a paucity of qualified town planners have created cities with no mixed-use planning, lengthy daily commutes, energy-inefficient buildings, and unsustainable mobility and spatial development plans
  2. An increase in the stock of municipal corporation personnel specializing in environmental engineering, disaster management etc and their integration into policy-making and administrative processes is essential

Gaps in fiscal and administrative devolution

  1. Empowered city mayors and local councils around the world are playing influential roles in combating climate change
  2. Beijing and London are prime examples
  3. A number of US cities and states pledged to remain committed to the accord following Trump’s decision of pulling the country out of the Paris Accord

Way Forward

  1. Climate change is the tragedy of the commons
  2. This is particularly so in emerging economies like India where development imperatives can be overwhelming
  3. In the face of developed economies’ reluctance to respect it, the sort of intensive efforts outlined in the UN report will be difficult to pull off
  4. New Delhi is doing well to try and find the right mix for sustainable growth

4. Raja Mandala: Recalling an older power play

  1. If Iran were a normal state operating on the basis of national interest, it should be possible to resolve differences through give and take
  2. But if a revolutionary Iran exports ideology and destabilises its neighbours, others have no option but to push back, balance or contain
  3. For most Arab regimes revolution in Iran brought by Ayatollah Khomeini during 1978-79 posed an existential threat to their legitimacy and survival
  4. Like Bolshevik Russia and Maoist China, Khomeini’s Iran framed its international objectives in expansive terms
  5. It declared the intent to overthrow the extant regional order in the Middle East
  6. It claimed to “out-Arab” the Arabs in confronting imperialism, Zionism and backing the Palestinian cause

Turn of events in the Middle East

  1. Iran’s radical Islamism threatened the conservative Islamic regimes of the Arabian Peninsula
  2. The Iranian revolution was seen as overturning the status quo and the Arabs wasted no time in pushing back
  3. They turned to Saddam Hussein, the strongman of Iraq and Iran’s neighbour in the Gulf
  4. Saddam, hired as the “Arab Gendarme” against the “Islamist hordes” of Iran, did engage in a prolonged war with Tehran through the 1980s that bled both the nations into a draw
  5. But Saddam tried to recoup his losses by turning a predator
  6. After he annexed Kuwait in 1990, the Gulf regimes looked to the US for redress
  7. The US mounted a massive military operation to liberate Kuwait and put it back on the map in early 1991
  8. It had some serious unintended consequences

What US intervention led to?

  1. Osama bin Ladin, who worked with the Americans and the Saudis in promoting jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, turned against them
  2. Bin Ladin set up the al Qaeda to confront both America and the Arabian rulers friendly to it
  3. A decade later, al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington, on 9/11, which in turn brought Americans into Afghanistan
  4. Rather than consolidating Afghanistan, Washington invaded Iraq in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein
  5. In the new Iraq, liberated from Saddam’s secular autocracy, Tehran gained huge influence, especially among the now empowered Shia majority
  6. Arabia, long ruled by Sunni regimes, now confronted the first Shia-dominated Arab state — Iraq
  7. The need to counter Iran’s “Shi’ite geopolitics” became a pressing preoccupation for the Arabs since the middle of the last decade

Changes in last decade

  1. The Iran problem became even more challenging for Arabia, as the Arab Spring of 2011-12 unleashed new threats to the region’s stability
  2. They were frightened by the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the important support it won from Turkey and Qatar
  3. On top of all this, came the rise of the extreme Sunni force, the Islamic State
  4. The Obama administration concluded an agreement with Iran on limiting its nuclear programme
  5. While Washington proclaimed it as a “non-proliferation” agreement, for Arabs it was about ending Iran’s international isolation, boosting Iran’s economy by lifting sanctions, and tilting the balance ever more in favour of Iran

Focus shifting from the US

  1. Having seen America turn wild, the Gulf Arabs can no longer afford to put all their eggs in the American basket
  2. While they hold on to the US, they are inviting other powers like France and Britain back into the Gulf
  3. They are also boosting national military capabilities
  4. The Gulf Arabs deeply dislike what they see as the “pro-Iranian” policies of Russia and China in the Middle East

Way forward for India

  1. India simply confounds the Arabs
  2. They are surprised by Delhi’s strange duality in the Gulf
  3. There is apolitical mercantilism when it comes to the Arabs and delusions of grand strategy in dealing with Iran

5. NASA probe to fly by most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft

  1. NASA’s New Horizons probe is on course to fly by the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, which is at a distance of 6.6 billion kilometers from Earth.
  2. This event will set the record for the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft.
  3. The spacecraft has successfully performed the three and half-minute manoeuvre on October 3 to home in on its location.
  4. The manoeuvre slightly tweaked the spacecraft’s trajectory and bumped its speed by 2.1 metres per second keeping it on track to fly past Ultima officially named 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.
  5. This manoeuvre has led the farthest exploration in world more than a billion miles beyond Pluto.

Trajectory Correction Maneuver

  1. New Horizons itself was about 6.35 billion km from earth when it carried out trajectory correction maneuver (TCM), the farthest course-correction ever performed.
  2. This was the first Ultima targeting maneuver that used pictures taken by New Horizons itself to determine the spacecraft’s position relative to the Kuiper Belt object.
  3. The TCM is done by determining the current trajectories and its target, and then calculating the manoeuvering required to put the spacecraft at the desired aim point for the flyby 3,500 km from Ultima at closest approach.

Confirming the right trajectory

  1. The optical navigation images gathered by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) provide direct information of Ultima’s position relative to New Horizons.
  2. This has helped the team determine where the spacecraft is headed.
  3. The recent navigation images have helped confirm that Ultima is within about 500 km of its expected position, which is exceptionally good.
  4. The spacecraft is just 112 million kilometres from Ultima, closing in at 51,911 km/h.
  5. The team will eventually have to guide the spacecraft into an approximately 120 by 320-kilometre “box” and predict the flyby to within 140 seconds.

New Horizon Probe

  1. New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program on January 19, 2006.
  2. The primary mission is to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system. The secondary mission to fly by and study one or more other Kuiper belt objects (KBOs).
  3. After completing flyby mission of Pluto, New Horizons has maneuvered for a flyby of KBO 2014 MU69. It expected to take place on January 1, 2019.

Kuiper Belt

  1. Kuiper belt is a region of the solar system beyond the planets, extending from the orbit of Neptune. It consist mainly small bodies or remnants from the solar system’s formation.
  2. It is similar to the asteroid belt, although it is far larger 20 times as wide and 200 times as massive.
  3. The Kuiper belt objects (KBO) are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed ‘ices’), such as methane, ammonia and water.
  4. Kuiper belt is home to at least three dwarf planets Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.
  5. Pluto, discovered in 1930, is considered its largest member.

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