Saturday, December 25, 2010

GSLV-F06: ISRO detonates the geo-stationery satellite after it develops technical snag

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 25: India's ambitious geo-stationary satellite mission received a major setback on Saturday as the satellite launcher, GSLV-F06, had to be detonated seconds after its launch. The GSLV-F06 plunged into the Bay of Bengal with its payload, the geostationary satellite, GSAT-5P, badly hitting the telecommunications expansion programme in the country.

This is the third GSLV launch failure and the second one in eight months. However, this is the first time that ISRO's satellite launch mission had failed in the crucial first stage itself. Of the seven GSLV launch missions, India could successfully accomplish four, with three missions being a total failure. However, in contrast the PSLV launch has been successful, with only one of the 17 missions failing to take off.

The GSLV-F06, which uses the third stage cryogenic engine from Russia, deviated from the designed path moments after the launch. Fearing that it would hit human habitations, the ISRO team monitoring the launch, pressed the detonation command to abort the mission. This is perhaps the first time ever the ISRO had to kill its own mission fearing loss to human life and property. The ISRO spent Rs 125 crore on the satellite. The failure will affect ISRO's planned missions, including the manned mission to moon.

GSAT-5P was by far the weightiest communication satellite made by ISRO and was to replace Insat2E communication satellite launched 11 years ago. ISRO said a defective strap-on boosters hurled the GSLV rocket off-course soon after a smooth lift-off from Sriharikota Range in Nellore district.

The launch was originally scheduled for December 20, but was put off by five days following a leak in the cryogenic engine. ISRO had switched to the Russian cryogenic engine for the present launch after the earlier test mission in April this year using India-built cyrogenic engine proved unsuccessful.

GSAT-5P had 24 C-band transponders and 12 extended C-band transponders and was meant for augmenting communication services currently provided by Indian National Satellite System. It was meant to boost TV, telemedicine and tele-education, and telephone services.

The satellite, developed by ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, was the fifth in the GSAT series. Had the mission been successful, GSAT-5P would have served the teleccommunications needs of the country till at least 2022.

Experts in liquid propulsion systems Dr D Sashi Kumar and Dr Nambi Narayanan described the failure of the ISRO's mission as "unfortunate and a stupid thing to have happened in the history of India's space mission".

Unfortunately, the whole operation was over even before cheers and claps that rented the air when GSLV took off died down much to the
disappointment of ISRO engineers.

ISRO chairman r K Radhakrishnan told reporters that the control room lost control over the on board computer system of the GSLV-F06 vehicle and the activation system in GSLV failed to react to the commands from the ground.

He said an expert’s team will study the reasons for the deviation of the path for next two days to assess about what exactly triggered the problem. “We suspect that a connector which takes signal down snapped” he said pointing to a possible snag on strap on motor in the first stage.

Reacting to a question on GSLV failure affecting the business of
launching foreign satellites, he maintained that it will not have much
of an impact while pointing to their success with PSLV. He indicated
to the plans to launch next GSAT 8 French Guiana. He said Chandrayaan II project will be launched in 2013 or 2014.

The first flight of GSLV took place from SHAR on April 18, 2001 by launching 1540 kg GSAT-1. It was followed by four more launches, GSLV-D2 on May 8, 2003 (GSAT-2 1825 kg), GSLV-F01 on September 20, 2004 (EDUSAT 1950 kg), GSLV-F02 on July 10, 2006, GSLV-F04 on September 2, 2007 (INSAT-4CR 2130 kg) and GSLV-D3 on April 15, 2010.

"We have brought seven cryogenic engines from Russia and used six so far and have one more. We have taken sanction for redesign the core element of GSLV in 2011 first part. Our current plan for 2011 to 2012 we would like to go through ground tests related design and
configuration of GSLV before next flight” Dr Radhakrishnan added.

Immediate Missions

1. Resource Sat II launch through PSLV in January 2011.
2. Youth Sat made by Masco University and ISRO in January
3. A satellite made by Singapore University in January

History of GSLV launches

GSLV-F06 launched GSAT-5P on December 25, 2010 (Unsuccessful)
GSLV-D3 launched GSAT-4 on April 15, 2010 (Unsuccessful)
GSLV-F04 launched INSAT-4CR on September 2, 2007 (Successful)
GSLV-F02 launched INSAT-4C on July 10, 2006 (Unsuccessful)
GSLV-F01 launched EDUSAT(GSAT-3) on September 20, 2004 (Successful)
GSLV-D2 launched GSAT-2 on May 8, 2003 (Successful)
GSLV-D1 launched GSAT-1 on April 18, 2001 (Successful)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

NRIs outsource medicines from motherland: Indian medicines are cheaper but effective

By Syed Akbar
As Ratnakar, a finance manager from Florida, packs his luggage after a month's vacation in Hyderabad to fly back, he makes it sure that he has bought enough stocks of medicines for himself and family. He 
got stocks sufficient for a whole year for just Rs 14,000, which otherwise cost him anything upward of Rs 1,00,000 back home in the USA.

Everyday thousands of NRIs and even foreign nationals purchase large stocks of personal  medicines from India to beat the huge price barrier. According to local pharmacists, NRIs, who visit their dear ones in the city,  make it a point to purchase medicines in the bulk before flying home. They save as much as six to 
10 times on daily use medicines, and two to four times on life-saving drugs. NRIs also obtain medicines from 
their relatives visiting them.

Senior pharmacist P Venkatesh, who runs a leading chain of drug stores in the city, says  "many NRIs and people going abroad for a few months purchase complete stock of medicines from here. Tablets and capsules taken daily for diabetes and heart diseases are usually in demand. They also purchase precautionary drugs 
for fever, pain etc."

According to Ratnakar, since most medical insurance do not cover the cost of medication  post- or pre-
hospitalisation, many NRIs have been preferring to outsource medicines from India. "Whenever I come here I carry lots of medicines for me and my family. I even share some with my friends in the USA," he  says.

US Customs estimates that 10 million US citizens bring in medicines from other countries every year. This is besides two million packages of medicines imported from countries like India. That there's a high 
demand for Indian drugs is evident from the fact that the country exports two-thirds of the medicines it 

"Medicines literally cost a fortune in the USA. It is therefore, not a surprise to see most Indians living in the USA buying medicines from India at a fraction of a cost," says breast cancer specialist Dr P Raghuram. For instance, Anastrazole used to treat hormone receptor positive breast cancer in post menopausal 
women, costs Rs 300 per tablet in the USA compared to just Rs 50 in India. The price difference is six times.

Another drug Herceptin, used for breast cancer patients, who are HER 2 positive, costs Rs 2 lakh per injection in the USA, while it is available at half the price in India.

Moreover, the US rule that prescription medicines should be sold only on prescription by  a qualified medical
practitioner also forces NRIs to outsource medicines from India. "Before going to a pharmacist, a patient in the USA needs to approach a doctor, pay him his fee, which is usually quite high. If the doctor's fee is also included the total cost of prescription medicines will go up to 15 times," says a city pharmacist MN Venkat.

Supporting Venkat's argument, Dr S Vijay Mohan, senior consultant physician, Care Hospital, points out "besides the 10-times more cost factor, drugs aren’t available over the counter so easily abroad. Here, one can purchase most of the drugs without prescription but the same isn’t true for the USA or the UK. In the 
US, except tylenol and panadol, which are US versions of crocin, no other medicine can be procured without 

Take the case of  Stieva-A (Renova). It costs about Rs 3,500 for a month's supply in the USA as against Rs 250 in India. The Indian version of cancer medicine Nexavar costs Rs 28,000 a month as against 
its price of Rs 2.80 lakh in the USA. Indian drug Erlocip costs about Rs 1,800 while its US version Tarceva is priced  at Rs 5,500.

While the demand for Indian medicines has been going up, the US does not want to recognise Indian drugs as of high quality. The Centers for Disease Control, a US government body, cautions American  citizens visiting India that they should purchase antimalarial drugs before travel.

"Drugs purchased overseas may not be manufactured according to the United States standards and may not be effective. They also may be dangerous, contain counterfeit medications or contaminants, or be combinations of drugs that are not safe to use," the CDC travel advisory says.

Many doctors point out that medical tourism is booming in India because even the cost of  surgeries is far less here. For instance, heart bypass surgery in the USA will cost around Rs 23 lakh. The same will 
cost between Rs 1 and Rs 2.5 lakh even in high profile corporate hospitals in India.

Comparative cost of medicines

1. Furazolidone-Loperamide (Anti-bacterial, for treatment of diarrhoea and enteritis): Rs 25 per 10 tablets (Rs 300 in the USA)

2. Paracetamol-Aceclofenac (Analgesic, anti-pyretic, for treatment of pains and fever): Rs 15 to 30 per 10 tablets depending on the brand (Rs 250 in the USA)

3. Amlodipine (anti-hypertensive, for treatment of angina): Rs 6.50 to Rs 77 per 10 tablets depending on the brand (Rs 500 in the USA)

4. Ampicillin (anti-biotic, anti-bacterial): Rs 55 to Rs 85 per pack of 10 tablets depending on the brand (Rs 700 in the USA)

5. Omeprazol-Domperidone (gastro-oesophagus reflex disease, peptic ulcers disease): Rs 55  per pack of 10 tablets (Rs 450 in the USA)

6. Pantoprazole (ulcers in oesophagus): Rs 63 (Rs 500 in the USA)

7. Metronidozole-Clotrimazole (anti-biotic, amoebicide, anti-protozoal): Rs 47 (Rs 550 in the USA)

8. Sitagliptin (anti-hyperglycemic, brand name Januvia for type 2 diabetics): Rs 500 (Rs 4700 in the USA)

9. Pimecrolimus (for treatment of eczema and atopic dermatitis; trade name elidel): Rs 600 (Rs 9400 in the USA)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

All about mirror neurons: One can gain expertise in any fied by just observing experts do their work

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 14: One can gain expertise in any field including business and sports by just observing experts do their work, says behavioural sciences expert Prof VS Ramachandran.

According to Prof Ramachandran, the brain contains "mirror neurons" which help one learn things through observation. They also help in learning through imitation. The mirror neurons will unlock the greatest mysteries of the human mind.

Prof  Ramachandran, who is the director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego, said the mirror neurons would fire when someone does a job and this is repeated in those who closely watch the activity. In other words, if you are inclined to learn some difficult task and observe an expert perform it, your mirror neurons will help you to imitate the expert and learn expertise from him.

The mirror neurons are so powerful that a person, who observes someone pricking his hand with a needle, will feel the pain even though the observer does not actually do it.

"Cells in the brain's anterior cingulate area, which normally fire when you poke the patient with a needle ("pain neurons"), will also fire when the patient watches another patient being poked. The mirror neurons, it would seem, dissolve the barrier between self and others. I call them empathy neurons," Prof Ramachandran said.

He said the mirror neurons are responsible for why people, subconsciously, imitate others. Mirror neurons would do for psychology what DNA did for biology by providing a unifying framework and help explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments.

The emergence of a sophisticated mirror neuron system set the stage for the emergence, in early hominids, of a number of uniquely human abilities such as proto-language, empathy, and the ability to adopt another's point of view.

He said intelligence is not linked to race, colour and nationality, though it has genetic basis. The average IQ levels in the West have increase by 15 to 20 per cent in the recent times, he said, adding that such a study was not done in India.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Novel human influenza virus will continue to thrive as a seasonal virus for a few more years

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 12: The novel human influenza virus will continue to thrive as a seasonal virus for a few more years before it either dies down or mutates into a new strain.

According to city doctors, though the World Health Organisation has withdrawn its pandemic warning for swine flu, the novel human influenza virus 2009 will continue to emerge every year as a seasonal influenza virus for a few more years. There are chances of the virus losing its power gradually or emerging even more stronger in the days to come in case a mutation takes place in its genes.

"The pandemic threat has been withdrawn. But the novel influenza virus will continue to pose as a threat in thickly populated countries like India. Already the virus is claiming more lives this year as compared to that of last year. The infection rate is also higher this time. There are chances of young people falling victim to swine flu," said senior geneticist Dr MN Khaja.

Doctors also warn of the virus leading to viral pneumonia in some of the patients. If this happens, the virus will pose a major challenge to medical and health authorities. A majority of the victims of swine flu in Hyderabad and other parts of the State so far this season have been pregnant women.

"There are also chances of one of the non-human influenza viruses entering human beings," he cautioned.

According to Hyderabad District Medical and Health Officer Dr Ch Jayakumari, health authorities have been keeping a constant watch on cases of severe respiratory illness to identify whether the virus has turned relatively virulent this season.