Allocation Will Help Begin Work Related To Manned Flight, Says Isro TEAM TOI India's ambitious plan to launch manned space missions received a boost on Friday with the government sanctioning more than Rs 100 crore for the initiative. With the budgetary allocation jumping from Rs 4 crore to Rs 125 crore this year, the Rs 10,000-crore space programme now seems to be steadily moving from the drawing boards to the launchpad at Sriharikota. Tentatively, the lift off is slated for 2014. Speaking to TOI on Friday, Isrospokesperson S Satish said the massive hike meant that the pre-project activities related to the manned flight would be initiated this year. This will essentially mean preparing the infrastructure for the flight, he said, adding that GSLV MK3 three-stage rocket, now under development, would be used for the mission. The first developmental flight of this rocket is expected to take place in early 2009. Apart from using it for a manned space flight, the GSLV Mk3 is intended to place into orbit four-tonne class of communication satellites in the geosynchronous transfer orbit. The project envisages the development of a number of technologies which include a 200-tonne solid booster, 25-tonne cryogenic engines and 110-tonne liquid-stage engines as core boosters. Welcoming the hike for the project in the budget, India's first and only spaceman Rakesh Sharma said the move reflected the government's

A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said on Thursday that he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel. Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially worldchanging "fourth-generation fuel' project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California. "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy,' Venter told an audience that included global warming fighter Al Gore and Google co-founder Larry Page. "We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock.' Simple organisms can be genetically re-engineered to produce vaccines or octane-based fuels as waste, according to Venter. Biofuel alternatives to oil are third-generation. The next step is life forms that feed on CO2 and give off fuel such as methane gas as waste, according to Venter. "We have 20 million genes which I call the design components of the future,' Venter said. "We are limited here only by our imagination.' His team is using synthetic chromosomes to modify organisms that already exist, not making new life, he said. Organisms already exist that produce octane, but not in amounts needed to be a fuel supply. "If they could produce things on the scale we need, this would be a methane planet,' Venter said. "The scale is what is critical; which is why we need to genetically design them.' The genetics of octane-producing organisms can be tinkered with to increase the amount of CO2 they eat and octane they excrete, according to Venter. The limiting part of the equation isn't designing an organism, it's the difficulty of extracting high concentrations of CO2 from the air to feed the organisms, the scientist said in answer to a question from Page. Scientists put "suicide genes' into their living creations so that if they escape the lab, they can be triggered to kill themselves. Venter said he is also working on organisms that make vaccines for the flu and other illnesses. "We will see an exponential change in the pace of the sophistication of organisms and what they can do,' Venter said. "We are a ways away from designing people. Our goal is just to make sure they survive long enough to do that.' But, if two scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States are correct, people will still be on gasoline even 50 years from now, churning out climate changing pollutants in the process, and yet not be accelerating an ecological disaster. With crude at nearly $100 a barrel

Scientists Are Building First Worldwide Portrait Of Human Impact That Has Left Just 4% Of The Seas Pristine In 1980, after college, I joined the crew of a sailboat partway through a circumnavigation of the globe. Becalmed and roasting one day during a 21-day crossing of the western Indian Ocean, several of us dived over the side. Within a few swimming strokes, the bobbing hull seemed a toy over my shoulder as I glanced back through my diving mask. Below me, my shadow and the boat's dwindled to the vanishing point in the two-mile-deep water. Human activity seemed nothing when set against the sea itself. Just a few weeks later, on an uninhabited island in a remote part of the Red Sea, I was proved wrong. The shore above the tide line was covered with old light bulbs, apparently tossed from the endless parade of ships over the years. Now scientists are building the first worldwide portrait of such dispersed human impacts on the oceans, revealing a planet-spanning mix of depleted resources, degraded ecosystems and disruptive biological blending as species are moved around the globe by accident and intent. A paper in the February 15 issue of the journal Science is the first effort to map 17 kinds of human ocean impacts like organic pollution, including agricultural runoff and sewage; damage from bottomscraping trawls; and intensive traditional fishing along coral reefs. About 40% of ocean areas are strongly affected, and just 4% pristine, according to the review. Polar seas are in the pristine category, but poised for change. Some human impacts are familiar, like damage to coral reefs and mangrove forests through direct actions like construction and subtler ones like the loss of certain fish that shape ecosystems. Others were a surprise, said Benjamin S Halpern, the lead author and a scientist at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California. He said continental shelves and slopes proved to be the most heavily affected areas, particularly along densely populated coasts. The most widespread human fingerprint is a slow drop in the pH of surface waters around the world as a portion of the billions of tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere from fuel and forest burning each year is absorbed in water, where it forms carbonic acid. That progressive shift in ocean chemistry could eventually disrupt shell-forming plankton and reef-building species, particularly where other impacts, including rising temperatures from human-caused global warming, create simultaneous stresses, many marine biologists say. "I study this stuff all the time and didn't expect the impacts to be as pervasive as we found,' Halpern said. The review provides a baseline necessary for tracking further shifts, he said. It also identifies some unanticipated trouble spots, similar to terrestrial biodiversity "hot spots' that environmental groups have identified over the years. NYT NEWS SERVICE

Lalu Prasad has gone green with a vengeance. And it's not just colour of the unprecedented cash surplus of Rs 25,000 this fiscal that's green, there are other moves too. Railways will switch over to green discharge-free toilets by 2012 and switch over to energy-efficient CFL lamps in all staff quarters. Calling discharge from toilets a

All tobacco packets sold in India will soon have either of the two mild images

India on Tuesday tested its K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submersible pontoon launcher off Visakhapatnam, amid some indications that the test was

The Delhi University is finally looking beyond its boundaries. In a move bound to bring relief to many, the university is planning to open up its libraries to students from other institutes. The decision, awaiting final approval from the university's academic council, will benefit a number of students studying in other universities, say officials.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), it seems, is spending most of its time devising new plans every month to handle parking in the city instead of solving the problem. This time it has more to to add to the further chaos. After parking was decentralised zone-wise few months back to keep a better check on parking mafia, the civic body is again centralising the payment, tendering and collection of parking fees. Remunerative Project Cell (RP)

Beijing: Two Chinese companies

Pretoria: South Africa said on Monday that it will start killing elephants in order to reduce their burgeoning numbers, ending a 13-year ban and possibly setting a precedent for other African nations. Environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the government was left with no choice but to reintroduce killing elephants "as a last option and under very strict conditions' to reduce environmental degradation and rising conflicts with humans. There will be no "wholesale slaughter,' he told reporters. The announcement follows months of impassioned debate, with some conservationists arguing for elephant killings to protect the ecosystem, and animal welfare groups outraged at the prospect of slaughtering one of the planet's most intelligent and self-aware creatures. South Africa has been hugely successful in protecting its elephant population, once on the verge of extinction in parts of the country. But it has become a victim of its own success. The number of elephants, which have no natural predators other than humans, is growing at a rate of more than 5% a year and is expected to double by 2020. The big white hunter in the 1800s brought Africa's elephants near to extinction. Now South Africa, Namibia and Botswana have booming populations because of conservation efforts, while those of east and west African nations are struggling because of large-scale poaching. AP

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