Science and Technology

Strange practice of aboriginal Martu people of Australia helped kangaroo population flourish

As per a study conducted by anthropologists, the practice of aboriginal Martu people of Australia which involves setting small grass fires to catch lizards has actually enhanced kangaroo populations. The Martu people have been following this practice for at least 2000 years to expose burrows dug by 2-foot-long sand monitor lizards, which they then drag from the holes, cook and eat. The fires set by these people average about 10 acres.  A researcher found such human-made disruption boosts kangaroo populations – showing how co-evolution helped marsupials and made Aborigines into unintentional conservationists.

It has been found that the same land becomes the breeding ground for different types of vegetation, aiding kangaroos. For instance, the marsupials hide from predators such as dingoes in older bush grass and consume shoots and fruits in areas of younger vegetation.

The findings, published online today in the journal Human Ecology, suggest that Australia might want to encourage small-scale burning to bolster wildlife populations in certain areas. The study concludes: “To be successful, management schemes should facilitate traditional burning and hunting regimes in remote communities, and incorporate this traditional ecological practice into future management protocols.”

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NASA to launch Mars 2020 Rover to further exploration of the Red Planet

NASA has announced that it will launch a new mission to Mars in 2020 named as Mars 2020 Rover mission. The mission will endeavor to find out the potential habitability of the Mars environment, and directly search for signs of prehistoric Martian life. This attempt if successful will facilitate future manned missions.

The Mars 2020 rover mission is likely to be launched somewhere in July or August 2020, which will make landing on the red planet after an eight to nine month journey in 2021. The mission will be designed and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The mission rover will be based on the design of the successful rover, Curiosity that is functioning since it landed on the Mars in August 2012 and is a part of the NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.

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Rosetta: First spacecraft placed into orbit around a comet

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) spacecraft ‘Rosetta’ became the first spacecraft to intercept and go into orbit around a comet. It is now in position to help researchers to begin with their investigations into how the Solar System came into being.

ESA scientists brought Rosetta to within 100km of the comet – a 3km by 5km rock called 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko – and put it in a stable orbit by reducing its speed with its thrusters. To reach that point so far from the earth the spacecraft took around 10 years. Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the Solar System, and relics of the formation of the planets. It also believed that they provided Earth with both water and other essential ingredients which were necessary for triggering the evolution of life.

Rosetta and 67P

67P was first discovered in 1969 by Soviet astronomers Ivanovych Churyumov and Svetlana Ivanova Gerasimenko.

Scientists hope that Rosetta will unravel the secrets of this early history. The spacecraft has been named after the Rosetta Stone, the discovery of which in 1799 provided the key to translating Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Demotic script into Ancient Greek (and thus any other language).

It blasted off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, in March 2004, for a long journey involving loops around the Sun as it aimed to get onto the same orbit as 67P.

Rosetta has traversed over 6bn km, passing by Earth three times, Mars once, and flew by two asteroids, using the gravitational pull of those bodies to change velocity and catch up with 67P.

The mission has some resemblance with Japan’s 2005 Hayabusa mission, which landed on an asteroid named Itokawa. Its task was to lift out material from the asteroid’s surface, and return it to Earth for study – those samples arrived in 2010, but its capture mechanism malfunctioned. It is still uncertain if the capsule could successfully collect the asteroid rock fragments.

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