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India set to launch historic Moon mission Chandrayaan-3

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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.

(BBC News)

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The G7 Summit begins today

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Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries are meeting for a three-day summit, starting today (13 June) to discuss global affairs in the southern region of Puglia (Apulia), Italy.  

Heads of state of the seven members – the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom – as well as the chiefs of the European Council and the European Commission will be present at the event.

Italy, the host of this year’s event, has extended an invitation to more than 10 other countries for sideline discussions. These include UAE’s Mohamed bin Zayed, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Notable absentees are Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who it  is reported, had been invited.

Support for Ukraine is top of the agenda. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to arrive on the summit’s first day for two sessions dedicated to the war-torn country. The G7’s most anticipated outcome is an agreement over a $50bn loan for Ukraine backed by profits accrued on Russian assets frozen in the West. 

The war on Gaza is also expected to dominate talks. 

Pope Francis will also be among the guests – the first time a pontiff has been invited to the summit – for a session dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI). Other specific sessions will be on migration, financial issues and the situation in the Asia Pacific. 

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Heat forces shut down of Acropolis during afternoon hours

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The Acropolis in Athens will be closed during the afternoon today (14 June) for a second consecutive day, as Greece swelters under unseasonably high temperatures.

The Culture Ministry said the hilltop citadel, which is Greece’s most popular ancient site, would be closed from midday to 5 p.m. 

All other archaeological sites in the Greek capital will be closed during the same hours. 

Temperatures are expected to exceed 40 C (104 F) today in much of central and southern Greece, including greater Athens, the Cyclades islands and Crete.

The weather is expected to cool Friday and Saturday. 

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University Impact Rankings 2024

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The Times Higher Education (THE) announced the University Impact Rankings for 2024 yesterday (12 June), identifying and celebrating universities that excel across multiple United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These institutions stand out by demonstrating comprehensive excellence in contributing to global sustainable development. They also showcase their commitment to addressing the world’s most pressing challenges, including environmental sustainability, social inclusion, economic growth and partnerships.

THE evaluated 2,152 universities from 125 countries/regions to produce the overall Impact Ranking for 2024.

Australia’s Western Sydney University tops the list for the third consecutive year. The UK’s University of Manchester and Australia’s University of Tasmania follow in joint second place. Denmark’s Aalborg University is in fourth. Overall, the top 10 includes five countries across three continents.

The top newcomer in 2024 is France’s Institut Agro at joint 21st.

India is the most-represented country in the overall table, with 96 institutions.

Meanwhile, the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka has been ranked in 4th place among the Sri Lankan Universities and ranked between 801-1000 among the world Universities in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2024.

The University scored high marks for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4: Quality Education. The University joined the ranking in 2023.

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