India launches moon mission a week after it was aborted

India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III-M1 blasts off carrying Chandrayaan-2 from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, India, July 22, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 July 2019

India launches moon mission a week after it was aborted

  • Chandrayaan, the Sanskrit word for “moon craft,” is designed to land on the lunar south pole and send a rover to explore water deposits
  • India’s launch a week ago was called off less than an hour before liftoff due to a “technical snag”

NEW DELHI: India successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft to the far side of the moon Monday, a week after aborting the mission because of a technical problem.
Scientists at the mission control center burst into applause as the rocket lifted off in clear weather as scheduled at 2:43 p.m. from Sriharikota in southern India. K. Sivan, head of India’s space agency, said the rocket successfully injected the spacecraft into orbit.
The spacecraft — named Chandrayaan, the Sanskrit word for “moon craft” — is scheduled to land on the lunar south pole in September and send a rover to explore water deposits confirmed by a previous mission that orbited the moon.
If India did manage the soft landing, it would be only the fourth to do so, following the US, Russia and China.
India’s first moon mission orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water. The country plans to send its first manned spaceflight by 2022.
India’s launch coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this month. It came at a time when the world’s biggest space agencies are returning their gaze to the moon, seen as an ideal testing ground for technologies required for deep space exploration, and with the confirmed discovery of water, as a possible pit stop along the way. The US is working to send a manned spacecraft to the moon’s south pole by 2024.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country’s lunar program will get a substantial boost, writing on Twitter that the country’s existing knowledge of the moon “will be significantly enhanced.”
Sivan said at a news conference that the successful launch of the spacecraft was the “beginning of India’s historic journey” to the moon.
The launch of the $141 million moon mission a week earlier was called off less than an hour before liftoff because of a “technical snag.” Media reports said the launch was aborted after scientists from the Indian Space Research Organization identified a leak while filling helium in the rocket’s cryogenic engine. The space agency neither confirmed nor denied the reports, saying instead that the problem had been identified and corrected.
The spacecraft that launched Monday is carrying an orbiter, lander and rover that will move around on the lunar surface for 14 Earth days. It will take around 47 days to travel before landing on the moon.
India put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nation’s first interplanetary mission in 2013 and 2014.
With India poised to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, Modi’s ardently nationalist government is eager to show off the country’s prowess in security and technology.
India successfully test-fired an anti-satellite weapon in March, which Modi said demonstrated the country’s capacity as a space power alongside the United States, Russia and China.


No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

Updated 22 August 2019

No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

  • Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017
  • The refugees asked Myanmar authorities to guarantee their safety and citizenship
TEKNAF, Bangladesh: A fresh push to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar appeared Thursday to fall flat, with no one turning up to hop on five buses and 10 trucks laid on by Bangladesh.
“We have been waiting since 9:00 am (0300 GMT) to take any willing refugees for repatriation,” Khaled Hossain, a Bangladesh official in charge of the Teknaf refugee camp, told AFP after over an hour of waiting.
“Nobody has yet turned up.”
Some 740,000 of the long-oppressed mostly Muslim Rohingya minority fled a military offensive in 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that the United Nations has likened to ethnic cleansing, joining 200,000 already in Bangladesh.
Demanding that Buddhist-majority Myanmar guarantee their safety and citizenship, only a handful have returned from the vast camps in southeast Bangladesh where they have now lived for two years.
The latest repatriation attempt — a previous push failed in November — follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar led by Permanent Foreign Secretary Myint Thu.
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry forwarded a list of more than 22,000 refugees to Myanmar for verification and Naypyidaw cleared 3,450 individuals for “return.”
But on Wednesday, several Rohingya refugees whose names were listed told AFP that said they did not want to return unless their safety was ensured and they were granted citizenship.
“It is not safe to return to Myanmar,” one of them, Nur Islam, told AFP.
Officials from the UN and Bangladesh’s refugee commission have also been interviewing Rohingya families in the settlements to find out if they wanted to return.
“We have yet to get consent from any refugee family,” a UN official said Wednesday.
Rohingya community leader Jafar Alam told AFP the refugees had been gripped by fear since authorities announced the fresh repatriation process.
They also feared being sent to camps for internally displaced people (IDP) if they went back to Myanmar.
Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said they were “fully prepared” for the repatriation with security being tightened across the refugee settlements to prevent any violence or protests.
Officials said they would wait for a few more hours before deciding whether to postpone the repatriation move.
In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that repatriations had to be “voluntary.”
“Any return should be voluntary and sustainable and in safety and in dignity to their place of origin and choice,” Dujarric told reporters.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on the issue on Wednesday.
Sunday will mark the second anniversary of the crackdown that sparked the mass exodus to the Bangladesh camps.
The Rohingya are not recognized as an official minority by the Myanmar government, which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in Rakhine for generations.