May 27th, 2020 is day of another history making at least when it comes events in outer space. Space X, one of the most profitable space company on earth collaborated in 2015 with NASA to launch two astronauts on Spacecraft designed and built by Space X known as Dragon 2. This spacecraft was in development since 2010 but was publicly revealed in 2013. Elon Musk promised from the start that Crew Dragon will be developed and assembled keeping in mind with most advanced technology.
It is truly 21st century spacecraft as inside the cockpit, all the switches, knobs and dials are all touchscreens according to Space X’s Director of crew mission management, Mr. Benji Reed. This Crew Dragon is a crewed spacecraft designed to fly astronauts to International Space Station . It is also different from other Space X’s spacecraft like Cargo Dragon as Crew Dragon has an emergency abort system designed to separate capsule from its rocket in the event of any launch emergency.
Today will be Space X’s first crewed space mission in history of outer space and private space company. It is also a historic moment for NASA and USA as almost after a decade, a crewed space mission will be launched to space from American soil.
UPDATE-: Launch is delayed due to bad weather. Next attempt by NASA and Space X to launch astronauts to International Space Station will be done on May 30th. Space X created history with the successful launch of Crew Dragon carrying two astronauts to International Space Station. With this launch, Space X became First private company to launch crewed mission to outer space and with this, the prospect of space tourism has come into fruition.
“Ensuring everyone’s right to food and nourishment is an imperative we cannot ignore”- Pope Francis
Few days back I was going through my twitter feed when I came across very disturbing tweet posted by leading news channel. The caption reads ‘Shocking extent of Hunger : Starving man found eating dead dog near Jaipur , Viral video stuns India’. It shocked me to the core and forced me to think that are we failing each other as humans. The world is going through tough times right now in form of novel coronavirus and the worst isn’t over. This pandemic situation has put world on alert from the beginning of the year and as a result of it, more than 75% part of the world went into lockdown. Obviously, the worst hit among the society was the poor strata and the migrant labours especially in Indian context. Despite many assurances and relief packages announced by the Government of India, it hasn’t reached to all those in dire need of financial assistance and food. Many people of low income and those living in slums and on street fear more of dying due to hunger than of coronavirus. At the time of writing this, there is some relaxation given by the government but the problem of access to food remains very apprehensive. The world has developed so much after two world wars, the standard of living of people has improved tremendously in last 70 years or so and availability of goods has expand immensely, yet human beings find great difficulty to access the most basic need i.e. Food.
Isn’t Right to Food a basic human right and fundamental right in India ? Is it a global fundamental right? What has UN and agency doing to make sure every individual on this planet has access to food without much hardship?
In India, The Supreme Court in various legal cases stated that Article 21 of the Constitution of India, guarantees that ‘No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except procedure established by law’. The scope of ‘Right to Life’ includes ‘Right to Food’. The two most leading cases where Supreme Court took above mentioned view is ManekaGandhi vs. Union of India AIR 1978 SC 597 and ShantistarBuildersvs. Narayan Khimalal Totame (1990) 1 SCC 597. Apart from Article 21, Article 39(a) of the Constitution which deals with Directive Principles of State Policy requires the state to direct its policy towards securing that all its citizens have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. Even after the scope of Article 21 being expanded so much by the top court to include ‘Right to Food’ as part of Fundamental Right, it is disturbing to see that real situation is not what one assumes.
A special law was passed in 2013 known as The National Food Security Act. It is an Act to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable price to eligible household identified under section 10(1) shall be entitled to receive five kilograms of food grain per person under targeted public distribution system. In recent time, millions of people living below poverty line are benefitted directly through this act especially those that are identified on basis of their economic and social situation but what about those that are poor but do not have any prove to show their economic status? This act needs amendment to include every person who are financially in distress even for temporary period of time.
Globally, Access to food is our basic human right and as recognised in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as part of the “Right to an adequate standard of living….Including food, clothing, housing ” under Article 25(1). The signatory States of The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(ICESC) recognized the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family under Article 11(1) and the states also recognized “The fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger and shall take measures either individually and through international co-operation” under sub-clause 2. Right to free from hunger cannot be interpret as right to access to food as these are two different concept. While right to freedom from hunger can be measured in terms of malnutrition, Free to access food is measured by close availability of food without much hardship to people who don’t have any financial or limited financial respurces.
Food is necessity for human survival. It is one of the basic needs of any human being. But unfortunately, as per UN report in 2018, more than 821 million people suffered from hunger. One in nine people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead nutritional life. Hunger is one of the biggest risks to health worldwide almost at par with covid-19 which is turning out to be deadly in the world right now. To make sure that people have access to food, world leaders in 2000 gathered at UN to share common vision to end poverty and formulated eight ‘Millenium Development Goals’. In 2010, it was officially declared that MDG was successful in reducing the poverty numbers by half and the proportion of under- nourished people in the region fell by almost half.
Another initiative undertook by UN to eradicate hunger is ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ in 2012 during Rio+20 world conference on sustainable development. It calls for 100% access to adequate food all year round and zero loss or waste of loss among other measures. One of the consistent Sustainable Development Goals is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030 but such target would require equal and active participation by all the member states. Apart from UN food access programme and goals, there are agencies like World Food Programme which aims to bring food assistance to more than 80 million people in 80 countries and to respond food related emergency. World Bank’s priority in global agriculture sector is to raise investment in this sector to boost nutrition, food production and to built a food system that can feed everyone everywhere. Another agency working tirelessly to achieve hunger free world is UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Its purpose is to make sure that people have enough access to high quality food to lead healthy life. The International Fund for Agriculture Development is focusing exclusively to eradicate hunger in rural areas in developing countries and to improve lives of those living in rural area.
But in spite of all these efforts by current government and governments in the past, some states have failed to implement access to food as part of ‘right to life’ in their policies. The availability of food grain in India is sufficient but still why many people live in hunger and are forced to eat dead animals is one we should collectively examine and needs to act with generosity. Internationally, the situation is same and in some parts of the world even worse. The member states needs to acknowledge ‘Free access to food and no waste of food by individual or corporate’ and declare it a global fundamental right. To say that it is the duty of governments to make sure very human being is being fed daily is wrong. Just recognizing ‘Right to Food’ as fundamental right is not enough but working collectively towards achieving equal access to food should be the aim of every member states of UN.
Individually, we as humans need to stand up for each other and make sure to feed those in need. If every person is able to feed one other person, then we as human beings then we can beat poverty problem
No one had ever imagined that 2020 is going to be ‘A Survival Year of Human Race’. Indians too never imagined that there will be time when all of them have to confine to their home for more than 1 month at least. At the time of writing this, as per official figure issued by Ministry Of Health, there are more than 96 thousand confirmed cases of coronavirus and three thousand people have lost their lives. Considering India’s population right now it can be safely assume that rate at which coronavirus is spreading across nation is slow and it’s good news. India took active measures to contain this disease much before it was declared as ‘Pandemic situation’ by World Health Organisation’.
But the actions taken by the government during this whole phase at times felt without a concrete plan, protocol and are whimsical. As citizens, we cannot completely blame government and law because we did not anticipate this kind of serious situation. The word pandemic and related term is nowhere mentioned in any Indian Law and how to deal with it. The governments at Central and state level are practically relying on three existing laws which were enacted in last century. There is only one law which was enacted in post Y2K was The National Disaster Management Act, 2005 (NDMA). In this act, only the term ‘disaster’ is defined and its scope has been explained. According to section 2(d), the term ‘disaster’ means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in area, arising from natural or man made causes or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, degradation of, environment and is of such a nature that is beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area. Chapter II and III of the said act explain functions of National and State Disaster Management Authority in times of disaster and to prepare plan to mitigate disasters. The most important provision under this act which provides some sort of guidance to the government is provided under section 35 which deals with measures taken by the government for disaster management and includes coordinated action between ministries and governmental departments, ensure the integration of measures for prevention of disasters, allocation of funds for prevention and mitigation disaster, coordination with UN agencies and international organizations etc.
The scope of term ‘Disaster’ definitely needs to be widened so to include pandemic and any future catastrophic event and the measures taken by the government in case of crisis needs to be more inclusive like a national plan with regard to movement, employment, providing basic resources like food and shelter to those in need during such natural emergency etc.
Another law that deals with epidemic is The Epidemic Act of 1897 recently amended by way of Ordinance. The new amendment act provides for the prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic disease. The motive behind bringing an ordinance is to protect the lives of healthcare personnel who are carrying out their public duty to contain pandemic situation from any harm, injury, hurt and danger to life. The new epidemic Act fails to include the term ‘pandemic’ and anything related to it.
Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code is third and last legal provision that the Central Government has strictly enforced on the people including non-citizens. Section 144 prohibits gathering of more than 5 people in public places failing which a person shall be liable to be punished up to 3 years of imprisonment. But even this legal provision is proving to be ineffective especially after first phase of lockdown. Migrants from various states of India were seen protesting in big numbers in public place demanding basic needs and many of them in big numbers are moving on foot to reach their native place. Even after gathering at worship place is banned including opening and entry, at few occasions worshippers were gathering to mark festival or religious event.
India isn’t the only country who doesn’t have legal framework to deal with such catastrophe. Many developed nations are also doesn’t equipped with special or separate law to deal with this type of virus disease which globally has created a havoc. This critical time apart from misery has given us an opportunity to prepare and equip ourselves to face similar event in future if need arise.
After India successfully achieves flattening curve in controlling this disease and once life goes on with normal routine. The government must look into serious loopholes our legal system has with regard to health emergency and health care and come up with a separate law to deal with pandemic diseases or events in exhaustive manner. It must also include measures to be taken regarding continuous employment of those who cannot work from home and are in dire need of earning basic financial resources for themselves and those who are dependent on them. Government has recently announced huge financial relief for all sectors of economy but now India is in phase where life is eventually becoming normal from standstill.
Human from time immemorial has always been curious to know life beyond earth. In the quest to find life and resources outside earth,initially USA and USSR (Presently Russia) sent many unscrewed and crewed mission to moon and beyond and in space. After that, many countries joined elite league to mark their presence in space. Many historic moments were created by various space agency but USA Space Agency NASA’s achievement is one that is truly been inspiring and commendable. It is one of the leading space agency globally who has successfully established USA’s dominant status in outer space and one which many countries aspire to achieve from its space program. NASA’s Artemis mission is one such lunar program which many people have eye on its success and curiosity as to its mission.
Through Artemis lunar program, NASA is committed to land its astronauts on lunar surface once again after historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969. This time it is planning to land one woman and one male astronaut thus promoting gender equality in its space program.
The name ‘Artemis’ come from Greek mythology and has close connection with Apollo. Artemis was twin sister of Apollo, thus one can assume that’s why NASA’s second manned lunar mission is named as Artemis. This lunar mission program’s uniqueness lies in the fact that this is the first lunar mission where NASA is actively working with huge space companies like Space X, Blue Origin and Dynetics who are responsible to build human landing systems. Space X has been awarded contract to built a fully integrated Lander known as Starship that will use Space X’s super heavy rocket. Blue Origin is in process of developing the Integrated Lander Vehicle to be launched in its own New Glenn Rocket System and ULA Vulcan launch system while Dynetics is developing single structure human landing system to be launched on Vulcan launch system.
NASA Artemis program consist of two phase. In the first phase known as Artemis I, NASA will test its own powerful rocket, Space launch system and spacecraft Orion. It will be unscrewed flight mission and will be launched in 2021. In its second phase 2 known as Artemis II, the SLS and Orion will carry crewed mission. In its final and ultimate phase, Artemis III, NASA will land astronauts in 2024. NASA’s Artemis lunar mission is in line with its crewed Mars Mission set to be launch by 2028.
Recently, NASA announced ‘Artemis Accords’ which are guidelines to be followed by not just USA but every contracting nation who is and will be involved with NASA in its Artemis mission which is an international collaboration. The intent behind such accord is to prove that NASA is carrying out lunar mission well within the ambit of Outer Space Treaty, 1967(OST) and is not violating any principle and provision of it.
However it is too soon to comment on whether OST is being violated by NASA or not? Artemis Accord will be bilateral agreement meaning that any international agency will enter into bilateral agreement with NASA and execute it to create more transparent environment for space exploration, commercial and research activities in outer space to ensure that their mission is for the benefit of humankind and for their development. As per any bilateral agreement related to Artemis program, the participating space agencies will share the information on their space exploration plans and make their scientific data available to NASA including any activity related to space mining. One of the purposes of including space mining in its accord is to show to the world that NASA’s space mining activity is being carrying out keeping in mind provisions of Articles II, VI and XI of OST, 1967. As per Article II, outer space in not subject to any claim by any nation by means of occupation. Article VI deals with international responsibility to be borne by state party for its activities in outer space and any state party in order to carry out any space activity shall inform of it to UN Secretary- General, Scientific community and to public to ensure transparency as per Article XI.
While NASA claims to abide itself by OST, still there are certain doubts about it especially when it comes to space mining activity. Any resources find and explore by government and non-government organization will always have upper hand over its commercial use. OST talks about non-ownership by any entity yet reality will always be different. However, its just an assumption and will have wait and see how US non-governmental players abide by OST.
There is no doubt that US Space Agency’s ‘Artemis lunar mission’ will prove to be a breakthrough in demonstrating new technologies needed for future Mars exploration and establishing US as outer space leader .
“Space is infinite and so is the quest of human to reach the stars and beyond” In 2012, USA celebrated 50 years of its space program and huge quota of achievements. In October, 2020 it will celebrate 58 years of its establishment and operation. On October 1, 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Administration became operational with an estimated budget of $100 million and 8000 employees in Washington D.C. On October 11, 1958 it launched its first space probe, Pioneer 1. Since then, NASA biggest contribution to space exploration includes launch of Pioneer 3, first satellite which NASA made in conjunction with US Army Ballistic Missile Agency to fly at an altitude of 63,850 miles, Pioneer 4, first lunar flyby, TIROS 1, first weather satellite placed on earth orbit, John Glenn became first American astronaut to circle the earth in 1962. The most significant and history making moment in humankind came in 1969 with the launch of Apollo 11, a manned spacecraft that carried 3 astronauts on moon surface. In 1971, NASA launched first space mission Mariner 9 to orbit another planet i.e. Mars. In 1975, NASA cooperated with USSR Space Agency to achieve the first human space flight, the Apollo- Soyuz project which successfully tested joint tryst and docking procedures for spacecraft from the two nations. On 12th April, 1981, NASA launched first space shuttle, Columbia to place astronauts in space and carry on various space missions. In 1984, NASA started working on International Space Station (ISS) and in 2000, humans first inhabit ISS.
In terms of research centers, NASA carries out research and technical mission in 10 research centers across USA. Prominent among them are Kennedy Space Centre, Johnson Space Centre and Armstrong Flight Research Centre.
NASA- PRIVATE SECTOR COLLABORATION
US Space Agency in order to expand its capabilities in technology and communication sector like satellites, earth monitoring, navigation and exploration system recognize the role of private sector and how importance it is to collaborate with private space companies to achieve space dominion when other countries are giving tough competition to NASA like European Space Agency, China Space Agency and the already existing Russia Space Agency and to innovate space technologies and machines at low cost and with budget of no constraint while also maintaining control in triple-P (Public-Private Partnership). With these objectives in mind, the then US President Barack Obama approved and issued the National Space Policy Directives in 2010 to encourage federal departments and agencies to actively explore the use of inventive, non-traditional arrangements to acquire commercial space goods and services to meet US Government requirements including measures such as public-private partnerships, hosting government capabilities on commercial spacecrafts and purchasing scientific and operational data products from commercial satellite operators in support of government missions. This policy helped NASA to fill the void created with the discontinuation of Space Shuttle Program in 2011 due to budget cuts. To maintain and resupply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA entered into various agreements with more than 10 commercial space companies like Space X, Blue Origin, Boeing to manufacture and install facilities on ISS and to develop space crafts to carry astronauts and space tourist to outer space from 2020 onwards and to land and carry out research and experiments on other heavenly bodies including planets. This partnership is ever increasing and proving to be profitable to both the sectors. According to a report published by Space Angels, space companies who have invested in government space contracts received fund worth more than billion dollars. For example, Space X in its early years invested heavily in government contracts and received public funding worth $1 Billion. Those companies who have invested in space sector and bought space contracts received funding worth more than $7 Billion. This shows that US space companies are earning profits not just from their operational and manufacturing activities but also been receiving huge amount of public fund. This also exhibits the potential of space industry as the most sought after industry in the world economy.
According to Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, US Space industry is on its way to become $1 Trillion economy all due to recent and paced developments in field of communication and technology and large chunk of contribution goes to Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, whose company has acquired ambitious contracts related to ISS, moon lander and mining activities, Mars Landing and carrying out research on asteroids all while simultaneously launching more than 300 satellite pool of starlink constellation satellite. The future of US Space Industry is prosperous, one that is full of adventure and infinite history making moments. As space nerd, it’s the exciting time to witness these moment.
INDIA’S SPACE PROGRAM
India’s space program started with the establishment of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969. Like NASA, ISRO too operates through a network of centers. For example, payloads and sensors are developed at Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad. Satellites are designed, developed, assembled and tested at ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore and launched takes place at Vikram Sarabhai Centre. Since its time of operation till now, ISRO has become one of world’s top 5 space agency in terms of number of satellites launched, space missions etc. Some of the achievements of ISRO include its launch of first satellite, Aryabhata in 1975 by the then Soviet Union. The first satellite to be launched on indigenous launch vehicle was Rohini in 1980, space lunar missions like Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Chandrayaan-2 in 2019 Mars Mission like Mars Orbitor Mission in 2013.in 2019 it became the fourth nation to have Anti-Satellite weapon system to shot down junk satellite placed in lower earth orbit. It plans to launch astronaut in 2022 with the launch of Gaganyaan Mission
Until last year, ISRO solely was responsible for satellite design and launch making. With the aim to lessen the burden of ISRO and encourage private participation in Indian space industry, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s commercial wing NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL) invited tenders from space companies to develop five PSLV’s. NSIL received payload slot on the first commercial launch of ISRO’s new rocket- Small Satellite Launch Vehicle from US Space Company, Spaceflight. Nationwise collaboration, ISRO and US has already started working on Satellite Navigation (SatNav). The US Congress has decided to designate the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).
In the past three years, ISRO is doing commendable work not only in field of space engineering and technology but also encouraging local space startup to come forward with ideas that can lower cost of satellite and space mission launch while also expanding the horizon for Indian Space System to prove itself as tough competitor in space race. If India follows NASA model of development, expansion and triple-P model consistently, there is no doubt that it will be a formidable space power. We have a top leader that is really making sure to make space sector as the topmost developed and profitable sector of economy, all India needs now is more private participation with ISRO and more Indian space startups. Right now, the world is going through pandemic situation, much worse than two world war and it has hit every nation’s space program in terms of delay in satellite and outer space mission launch. But here lies opportunity for Indian space industry and that is more collaboration between ISRO and Indian space companies in coming months. There are so many advantages to it. First, increase in future space missions. Second, low cost benefit to Indian government agency in manufacturing space instruments and components. Third, technology collaboration will be beneficial in long run. NASA is perfect example of triple-P program and it is achieving new heights as a result of it. Its time for ISRO to follow the same.
UPDATE– On 16th May, 2020 India’s Honourable Finance Minister Mrs. N. Sitaraman announced that private sector’s participation in space activities will be encouraged and “That India’s private sector will be co-traveller in India’s space sector journey” The government will provide level playing level for private companies in satellite, launches and space based activities. It will also provide predictible policy and regulatory environment to private players. Private sector will be allowed to use ISRO reources to improve their capacities.
This is bold and concrete step toward triple-P from government which is surely going to make India’s space sector one of the most profitable and competitive industry in the following years. It’s time to make India’s own Space X
It’s good to observe what nature has to offer you. These past few days, weather was pleasant as evening approached and these are some of the pics I clicked on my …well on old phone but still pretty good… I love to find image in cloudy sky. Few of them I am sharing with you. Images are subject to copyright.
‘Nature is sending us a message with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis’ were the words of United Nation’s Environment Chief Inger Andersen in an exclusive interview to guardian.com  Its not just this honorable Danish environmentalist that has echoed the sentiment of nature protection but recently many medical and environmental scientist are of the same view. For more than a century, human being for his own selfish interest is exploiting natural resources without thinking of conserving it and now nature has played with us. There is limit to every human act and this was it. It all began in December, 2019 and till now this pandemic situation is still a nightmare for us.
Prior to COVIS-19, history of humankind has witnessed many pandemic situations like Spanish Flu in 1918, SARS in 2003, EBOLA outbreak in West Africa in 2014, Avian Influenza in 1997 etc. Time and again, Nature warned us about implication of environment exploitation and the current situation is also a severe warning from the nature to adhere to balancing nature with human needs.
No one is sure as to how long the current situation lasts and the governments around the world must wake up and frame a way forward towards green and clean rules and regulations. In Indian context, there is no law which makes felling of trees punishable in urban areas and even if there is a ‘Forest Conservation Act, 1980’ in existence, it does not have any strict punishment for those responsible for cutting down trees. According to section 3B , those responsible for deforestation shall be guilty of punishment of imprisonment up to 15 days which in practicality is not sufficient. This act also only covers conservation of forest area as declared by Central Government. What about other areas?There is also ‘Environment Protection Act, 1986’ but it only deals with environment protection against pollutants and is silent on water bodies conservation and cutting of trees.
It is really essential that government start framing and implementing of what is called as ‘Green Rules’ in policy making which must include protecting habitat of all natural organisms and guarding biodiversity areas. Every individual must be encouraged to plant trees near their surrounding and also proper watering it. Corporations must be strictly instruct to cover the fronts of their corporate offices with trees. Individuals and corporations are also continuously abrasing wild space, thus affecting natural life of wild animals. Laws strictly must be framed for protecting wild life and wildlife area and no construction activities must be done within 5 miles of every wildlife area throughout India.
We should follow example of European Union who in 2019 signed an agreement on ‘Sustainable Finance Rulebook’ which aims to avoid green washing and to allocate resources to finance an economy that will be in tune with the Paris Agreement and which enables to increase the transparency of financial market.
Nature has given a new opportunity to make right of all wrong we are doing with it and India has potential to be a ‘Global Green Leader’ and be a good example before the world of how to balance nature with economy.
Space is seriously facing debris problem with so many satellites launch and debris floating in outer space in form of non- operational satellites and its parts. At present, more than 2000 satellites are orbiting in lower earth atmosphere. According to space.com, a leading outer space related website, almost 1500 satellites are scheduled to launch in space. This number however may be lower than the estimation given the ongoing pandemic situation which has forced space agencies and space companies to halt their regular operation and research. But no matter what number of space objects will launch in coming months and year, the problem remains same and grave and that is ‘SPACE DEBRIS’.
Our outer space is becoming big junk of space objects with very less efforts are being going on to either lessen it or remove debris from the earth. Almost every space organization is in testing stage to develop technique and instrument like satellite which can remove space objects which are floating around the lower earth orbit. USA’s space agency NASA has a separate department known as ARES is working towards tracking and mitigating space junk. In 2019, European Space Agency green lit space debris mission ClearSpace-1 to remove an item an item of debris from space set to be launch in 2025. A Japanese Space Company Astroscale has begun constructing a prototype spacecraft ELSA-d which is planned to be launch in 2020 in space to remove dead satellites and pieces of dangerous space junk.
Recently, Los Alamos National Laboratory situated at New Mexico, USA has come up with their own plan on how to lessen space debris in future. According to its researchers, if the launching organization or companies use solid rocket fuel instead which are high-thrust, safer and reasonable at costing and it also can be stored for long period of time. However, it has its own limitation. It cannot be restarted once launched and also its movement cannot be stopped. And so that’s where researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have come up with breakthrough solution. They have recently developed the ability to stop and restart solid rocket motors numerous times from a single solid rockets in static test stands. A payload is also being developed that will contain power separately from the satellite and will be equipped with solid rocket system.
These solid rocket system and payload containing them shall play significant role in reducing space junk and for de-orbiting for years even after the satellites becomes non-functional.
Today is Earth Day and we are celebrating its 50th birthday officially although our earth is billion years old. In 1969 at UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed the idea to honor the earth and celebrate March 2, 1970 as Earth Day. A month later, a US Senator Garylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold nationwide teach-in on April 22, 1970 and was joined by activist Denis Hayes who later on received the honorary Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. In 1990, he took this event internationally and organized it in 141 countries. Every year, to honor Mother Earth, people around the world switch off their lights to show their respect towards Earth.
2020 started off on a different note. Human race is facing its dark moments, much worse than two World Wars. We are in middle of survival mode by confining at home since last week of March and one month later, still at home. But this pandemic situation also giving us chance to right all the wrongs our generation has done wrong in the past. Amid all the thirst to acquire natural resources to live materialistic life, we forgot that there is only one earth, one life and resources are limited. Today as we celebrate our Earth, let us pledge to ourselves to be more sensitive towards our mother earth from the moment our life becomes normal, lets follow a lifestyle that is in sync with ecology and climate. Let’s pledge to plant at least one tree in front of our home or neighborhood. We are 7.8 Billion people, even if one person plants a single tree and water it regularly, it is enough to make earth green and clean and breathable. Also it is high time we conserve limited water bodies and resources.
Earlier, I was a person who doesn’t favor planting many plants at home due to limited space but I am in favor of planting a single tree every year because I have realized the importance of being surrounded by trees and how it is very important for good mental health.
It was 31st December, 2019 and the world was gearing up to celebrate New Year 2020. It was on that day that China, the world’s second economic superpower shocked the world by informing World Health Organization (WHO) that a cluster of 41 patients with mysterious Pneumonia symptoms have been admitted in Wuhan medical hospital and they all are connected to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. What started as a mystery disease was first referred as 2019-nCoV and later on as COVID-19. It is a virus disease and has spread at alarming rate throughout the world forcing governments around the world to shut all its activities and mandating its citizens to stay indoors for weeks.
It also led to virtual blame game between China and USA. US blamed China of concealing facts regarding its origin and the scale of havoc it wreathed among its citizens. While some people termed it as ‘an act of biological threat, other people on social media started spreading conspiracy theories. In one of the leading world magazine ‘Foreign Affairs’ Yanzhong Huang, an expert on China and senior fellow on Global Health for Foreign Affairs, wrote an article in March 2020 titled ‘US-China Distrust Is Inviting Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory’ that there is conspiracy theory on social media that ‘the virus was a biological weapon and that it had escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan or an American one inflicted in Wuhan and while it is just a rumour, it certainly pointed out the loopholes in the China’s biosafety regulations.
Amid all these chaos in world politics, a new range of discussions have started regarding biosafety laws and biosecurity laws and need of uniform international body to deal with such acts. Before dealing about legal part, lets first address about exactly what is biosafety and biosecurity.
In general terms, Biosafety is a set of measures or actions addressing the security aspects related to the application of biotechnology and to the release into the environment of transgenic plants and other organisms. This particularly involves microorganisms that can adversely affect plant genetic resources, plant, animal or human health or the environment. The term ‘biosafety’ is sometimes complimentary to biosecurity’. Biosecurity refers to the implementation of laboratory practices and procedures and appropriate occupational health programs when working with potentially infectious agents and other biological hazards, these measures are designed to reduce the exposure of personnel working in these laboratories, public, agriculturists and environment to potentially infectious agents and other biological hazards. There is however strike difference among two terms. While ‘biosafety’ aims to prevent accidental infection and pathogens being released from laboratories, ‘biosecurity’ denotes policies and protocols designed to prevent malicious use of pathogens and toxins.
Laboratory acquired infections in past three decades has grabbed attention of researchers, scientists and governments. It is an infection which may occur in tested labs and has possessed concern among public as a contagious infection transferring from a person working in these laboratories to nearby society. Now that we have discussed these two terms, it is prudent to know about existence of laws particularly international laws relating to ‘Biosafety’ and ‘Biosecurity’ laws.
INTERNATIONAL LAWS AND TREATIES RELATING TO BIOSAFETY AND BISECURITY
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is the first international agreement to deal with safe handling, transporting and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity taking into account risks to human health. It was adopted on 29th January,2001 and came into force on 11th September, 2003. As of 2019, 172 countries have ratified this agreement. The protocol consists of 40 Articles and 3 Annexes. Article 15 and 16 deal with risk assessment and risk management to evaluate, identify the possible adverse of living modified organisms and maintain appropriate mechanism to regulate, manage and control risks identified in risk assessment.
The World Trade Organization in 1995 enforced an ‘Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and PhytoSanitary measures’ also known as ‘SPS Agreement’ with an aim to provide the balance of governments to protect food safety, plant and animal health. This agreement allows countries to set their own standards which must be international standards but that regulations framed must be based on science and must be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life [Article 3(2)]. These sanitary and phytosanitary measures take many forms such as products manufacturing and transporting from disease-free area, inspection of products, setting of allowable maximum percentage of pesticide residues in a product.
The Biological Weapons Convention, 1975 is the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. Under this treaty in the third review conference, it was agreed that the state parties shall provide annual reports on specific activities related to the BWC including data on research centers, laboratories, information on vaccine production facilities, information on outbreak of infectious diseases.
International Health Regulations, 2005 (WHO):- The purpose of these regulations are to prevent, protection against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are equivalent with and restricted to public health risks and which avoid unnecessary interference with international trade. These regulations are not limited to a number of diseases, rather they are constantly changing and are intended to have long lasting relevance in the international response to the emergence and spread of disease. It also provides legal basis for health documents applicable to international travel and transport and sanitary protections for the users of international airports, ports and other ground crossings.
Australia Group was founded in 1984 with the aim to ensure that the industries of participating countries did not assist either purposefully or inadvertently states seeking to acquire Chemical and Biological Weapons Capability(CWC). The members of this group should have an established, effective, legally-based system of national export controls and demonstrated compliance with all multilateral treaties banning CWC activities. The list of items over which all Australia Group participants exercise national export control includes 111 pathogens and toxins that affect human life, livestock animals and food plants; dual use production equipments like containment facilities.
Above mentioned are some of the international agreements and treaties that deals with biosafety and biosecurity laws in some way. But considering recent pandemic situation, all countries and especially those who are worst affected by it needs to come together on a common international platform to frame protocols and international treaty on biosafety and biosecurity laws in context of laboratory testing and pathogens so as to save human life. We now need uniform international standards more than ever rather than focusing on national safety standards like WTO has delegated to its member states. The world also needs transparency in execution of these framed rules by member nations and make sure that laboratories functioning in these countries which carry out any test on pathogens and chemical toxins must carry out in maximum safety standards. Rules and safety protocols must also be framed for personnel working in these laboratories and inspection of standards and safety standards must be carried out and revised either annually or at a regular interval of time by panel of international experts on biotechnology, law, international affairs etc.
COVID19 is an alarm for the mankind to wake up and realize what went wrong in the past and to move forward with precautions which are in line with environment and biological ecosystem.