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South Korea launches first lunar orbiter

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(Last Updated On: August 5, 2022)

South Korea’s first-ever lunar orbiter was launched from the US Thursday on a year-long mission to observe the Moon, live video showed, with a payload including a new disruption-tolerant network for sending data from space, Bangkok post reported.

Danuri — a portmanteau of the Korean words for “Moon” and “enjoy” — was carried on a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida by Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX. It aims to reach the Moon by mid-December.

“This is a very significant milestone in the history of Korean space exploration,” said Lee Sang-ryool, president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, in a video shown prior to the launch.

“Danuri is just the beginning, and if we are more determined and committed to technology development for space travel, we will be able to reach Mars, asteroids, and so on in the near future.”

According to Bangkok post during the year-long mission, Danuri will use six different instruments, including a highly sensitive camera provided by NASA, to conduct research, including investigating the lunar surface to identify potential landing sites for future missions.

One of the instruments will evaluate disruption-tolerant, network-based space communications, which, according to South Korea’s science ministry, is a world first.

Danuri will also try to develop a wireless Internet environment to link satellites or exploration spacecraft, they added.

The lunar orbiter will stream K-pop sensation BTS’ song “Dynamite” to test this wireless network, read the report.

South Korean scientists say Danuri — which took seven years to build — will pave the way for the nation’s more ambitious goal of setting foot on the Moon by 2030.

“If this mission succeeds, South Korea will become the seventh country in the world to have launched an unmanned probe to the Moon,” an official at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute told AFP.

“It is a huge moment for South Korea’s space development programme, and we hope to continue contributing to the global understanding of the Moon with what Danuri is set to find out.”

In June, the country launched its first domestically developed space rocket, its second attempt after a failed launch last October, Bangkok post reported.

The three-stage Nuri rocket has been a decade in development at a cost of 2 trillion won ($1.5 billion).

In Asia, China, Japan and India all have advanced space programmes, and the South’s nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea was the most recent entrant to the club of countries with satellite launch capability.

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European drought dries up rivers, kills fish, shrivels crops

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

Once, a river ran through it. Now, white dust and thousands of dead fish cover the wide trench that winds amid rows of trees in France’s Burgundy region in what was the Tille River in the village of Lux.

From dry and cracked reservoirs in Spain to falling water levels on major arteries like the Danube, the Rhine and the Po, an unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of Europe. It is damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions, causing wildfires and threatening aquatic species, AP reported.

There has been no significant rainfall for almost two months in the continent’s western, central and southern regions. In typically rainy Britain, the government officially declared a drought across southern and central England on Friday amid one of the hottest and driest summers on record.

And Europe’s dry period is expected to continue in what experts say could be the worst drought in 500 years.

Climate change is exacerbating conditions as hotter temperatures speed up evaporation, thirsty plants take in more moisture and reduced snowfall in the winter limits supplies of fresh water available for irrigation in the summer. Europe isn’t alone in the crisis, with drought conditions also reported in East Africa, the western United States and northern Mexico.

As he walked in the 15-meter wide riverbed in Lux, Jean-Philippe Couasné, chief technician at the local Federation for Fishing and Protection of the Aquatic Environment, listed the species of fish that had died in the Tille.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “On average, about 8,000 liters per second are flowing. … And now, zero liters.”

In areas upstream, some trout and other freshwater species can take shelter in pools via fish ladders. But such systems aren’t available everywhere.

Without rain, the river “will continue to empty. And yes, all fish will die. … They are trapped upstream and downstream, there’s no water coming in, so the oxygen level will keep decreasing as the (water) volume goes down,” Couasné said. “These are species that will gradually disappear.”

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Elon Musk sells $7 billion in Tesla shares ahead of Twitter fight

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2022)

Elon Musk has sold nearly $7 billion worth of shares in Tesla as the billionaire gets his finances in order ahead of his court battle with Twitter.

Musk disclosed in a series of regulatory filings that he unloaded about 8 million shares of his company Tesla Inc. in recent days, AP reported.

“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close and some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” Musk tweeted.

Musk is by far the largest individual shareholder in both Tesla and Twitter.

Shares of Tesla rose 4% to close Wednesday at $883.07. Shares of Twitter Inc. jumped 3.7% to close at $44.43, and are up 36% since July 11, with most believing Musk faces long-shot odds of success in court.

Musk countersued Twitter last week, accusing the company of fraud over his aborted $44 billion acquisition. He claimed that Twitter held back critical information and misled his team about the size of its user base.

Musk alleges that Twitter committed fraud, breach of contract and violation of a securities law in Texas, where Musk lives.

Musk offered to buy Twitter earlier this year, then tried to back out of the deal claiming the social platform was infested with a larger numbers of “spam bots” and fake accounts than Twitter had disclosed.

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Australian court orders Google to pay $43 mln for misleading users

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

Australia’s competition watchdog said on Friday that Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google unit was ordered by the country’s Federal Court to pay A$60 million ($42.7 million) in penalties for misleading users on collection of their personal location data.

The court found Google misled some customers about personal location data collected through their Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018, Reuters reported on Friday. 

Google misled users into believing “location history” setting on their android phones was the only way location data could be collected by it, when a feature to monitor web and applications activity also allowed local data collection and storage, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said.

The watchdog, which estimates that 1.3 million Google account users in Australia may have been affected, had started the proceedings against the company and its local unit in October 2019.

Google took remedial measures in 2018, the regulator said.

In an emailed statement, Google said it had settled the matter and added it has made location information simple to manage and easy to understand.

The search engine giant has been embroiled in legal action in Australia over the past year as the government mulled and passed a law to make Google and Meta Platforms’ (META.O) Facebook pay media companies for content on their platforms.

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