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India approves budget for first manned space mission in 2022 | News

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The Indian government has announced it is allocating 100 billion rupees ($1.43 billion) for its first manned space mission, set to be launched by 2022.

“Today the Cabinet has given the go-ahead to the Indian Human Space Flight Initiative,” Information Technology Minister of India Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in New Delhi on Friday. 

“We will send a 3-member crew for 7 days into space. We are aiming to complete the pilot initiative within 40 months from now,” he added.

New Delhi is aiming to expand the country’s influence in the competitive $300bn global space industry.






India launches record 104 satellites into orbit

An unmanned test launch of the project is likely slated for December 2020.

The Ganganyaan project – Hindi for “Spacecraft” – is part of the government’s ambition to make India a global low-cost provider of services in space. 

In 2014, India put a satellite into orbit around Mars, becoming the fourth nation to do so. India’s Mars Mission cost less than the budget of the Hollywood space blockbuster “Gravity”. In November this year, India fired a rocket carrying 31 satellites into space, many on behalf of foreign governments. 

The Indian manned mission, announced in August this year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will aim to send a three-member crew to space for seven days. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said it hopes to deploy its biggest rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III to transport the three Indians into space.

Deterrence measure

For the manned mission, ISRO has already inked collaboration agreements with Russia’s Roscosmos and France’s CNES space agencies.

“A manned space mission is a natural progression in a country’s space journey. Commercial market space conservation is an important factor for India to develop its space capabilities. But over the last decade or so India has attempted to make changes to its space policy,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation told Al Jazeera.

“India has its own interests in space, beyond economics and development. Increasingly there are military and security related aspects driving India’s space program. For instance, China’s anti-satellite test in 2007 had given rise to new debate within India as to how India should develop it’s own deterrence measures,” she added.

India’s neighbour China first sent humans to space in 2003.

New Delhi’s space programme was launched in the early 1960s but it remains a small player in the global space industry.

Both China and India have dedicated billions of dollars to their space programs, but their budgets are still far below the US budget, which is estimated at $40bn.

With their ambitious space exploration and Mars missions, China and India have become members of a select club of space-faring nations along with US, Russia, France and Japan.

Despite its success, many have questioned the project’s steep price tag, which they say is too high for a country that still has to deal with widespread hunger and poverty. 

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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