India is set to launch its third Moon mission, aiming to be the first to land near its little-explored south pole.
The Chandrayaan-3 craft with an orbiter, lander and a rover is due to lift off at 14:35 on Friday (09:05 GMT) from Sriharikota space center.
The lander is due to reach the Moon on 23-24 August, space officials said.
If successful, India will be only the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, following the US, the former Soviet Union and China.
The third in India’s programme of lunar exploration, Chandrayaan-3 is expected to build on the success of its earlier Moon missions.
It comes 13 years after the country’s first Moon mission in 2008, which carried out “the first and most detailed search for water on the lunar surface and established the Moon has an atmosphere during daytime”, said Mylswamy Annadurai, project director of Chandrayaan-1.
Chandrayaan-2 – which also comprised an orbiter, a lander and a rover – was launched in July 2019 but it was only partially successful. Its orbiter continues to circle and study the Moon even today, but the lander-rover failed to make a soft landing and crashed during touchdown. It was because of “a last-minute glitch in the braking system”, explained Mr Annadurai.
Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chief Sreedhara Panicker Somanath has said they have carefully studied the data from the last crash and carried out simulation exercises to fix the glitches.
Chandrayaan-3, which weighs 3,900kg and cost 6.1bn rupees ($75m; £58m), has the “same goals” as its predecessor – to ensure a soft-landing on the Moon’s surface, he added.
The lander (called Vikram, after the founder of Isro) weighs about 1,500kg and carries within its belly the 26kg rover which is named Pragyaan, the Sanskrit word for wisdom.
After Friday’s lift-off, the craft will take about 15 to 20 days to enter the Moon’s orbit. Scientists will then start reducing the rocket’s speed over the next few weeks to bring it to a point which will allow a soft landing for Vikram.
If all goes to plan, the six-wheeled rover will then eject and roam around the rocks and craters on Moon’s surface, gathering crucial data and images to be sent back to Earth for analysis.
“The rover is carrying five instruments which will focus on finding out about the physical characteristics of the surface of the Moon, the atmosphere close to the surface and the tectonic activity to study what goes on below the surface. I’m hoping we’ll find something new,” Mr Somanath told Mirror Now.
India suspends visas for Canadians
India has suspended visa services for Canadian citizens amid an escalating row over the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.
Visa service provider BLS posted a message from India’s mission blaming “operational reasons” for the decision.
Tensions flared this week after Canada said it was investigating “credible allegations” linking India with the murder of the separatist leader.
India angrily rejected the allegation calling it “absurd”.
Analysts say relations between the countries, which have been strained for months, are now at an all-time low.
The message about the suspension of visas was first posted on the BLS website on Thursday.
“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” it read.
India’s foreign ministry refused to comment on the matter and asked the BBC to refer to the BLS website.
The move comes a day after India issued an advisory urging its citizens travelling to or living in Canada to “exercise utmost caution” in view of the “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada”.
Canada has 1.4 million people of Indian origin, making up 3.7% of the country’s population, according to the 2021 census. India also sends the highest number of international students to Canada – in 2022, they made up 40% of total overseas students at 320,000.
One in 10 people now aged 80 or older
For the first time ever, more than one in 10 people in Japan are now aged 80 or older.
National data also shows 29.1% of the 125 million population is aged 65 or older- a record.
Japan has one of the lowest birth-rates in the world and has long struggled with how to provide for its ageing population.
It has the world’s oldest population, measured by the proportion of people aged 65 or up, the United Nations says.
That proportion stands at 24.5% in Italy and 23.6% in Finland, which rank second and third respectively.
In Japan, those aged over 65 are expected to account for 34.8% of the population by 2040, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
The country’s elderly employment rate is among the highest across major economies – workers aged 65 or more make up more than 13% of the national workforce.
But this has done little to relieve the burden on the country’s social security spending.
Japan has approved a record budget for the next fiscal year, in part due to rising social security costs.
Efforts to boost its birth rates have also met with little success amid the growing cost of living, and notoriously long working hours.
Birth rates are slowing in many countries, including Japan’s neighbours, but the problem is particularly acute in Japan.
The country was estimated to have had fewer than 800,000 babies born last year – the lowest number since records began in the 19th century.
In the 1970s, that figure was more than two million.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in January that his country is on the brink of not being able to function as a society because of its declining birth rate.
However authorities remain hesitant about accepting migrant workers as a solution to falling fertility.
Other countries in Asia are facing similar demographic challenges.
Last year, China’s population fell for the first time since 1961, while South Korea has reported the lowest fertility rate in the world.
UK to ban American bully XL dogs
The British government has announced steps to outlaw the American bully XL by the end of the year.
The American bully XL is a popular breed that likely descended from pit bulls.
The ban was announced after a string of dog attacks that caused outrage on social media last week.
PM Rishi Sunak said it was clear the American XL bullies were “a danger to communities” and a ban was needed.
He added that experts and police will work together to “accurately define the breed” and powers will be used in the Dangerous Dogs Act.
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