December 10, 2023

Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3 ( Science and Technology)


Recently, British businessman richard branson beat rival jeff bezos to reach the edge of space, giving space tourism an official kick-start.


  • Part of the crew, sirisha bandla, a 34-year-old aeronautical engineer, recently became the third indian-origin woman to space.
  • Bandla, who was born in guntur, andhra pradesh, and brought up in houston, texas
  • She joined sir richard branson, the company’s billionaire founder, and five others on board virgin galactic’s spaceshiptwo unityto make a journey to the edge of space from new mexico.
  • Her flight role will be researcher experience, according to her profile on virgin galactic.
  • She will become the third indian-origin woman to fly into space after kalpana chawla and sunita williams.

More in news:

  • The experts and space enthusiasts are in doubt whether the height to which virgin galactic’s spaceshiptwo unitytravelled can be termed ‘space’.
  • The most widely accepted boundary of space is known as the kármán line, 100km above mean sea level.
    • But the united states uses 80km as the cutoff point.
    • Branson’s virgin galactic flight reached a height of 86km while jeff bezos’ blue origin flight is expected to go about 106km high.
  • The kármán line has been compared to international waters, as there are no national boundaries and human laws in force beyond the line.
  • It was named after aerospace pioneer theodore von kármán, who wrote in his autobiography: “this is certainly a physical boundary, where aerodynamics stops and astronautics begins…below this line, space belongs to each country. Above this level, there would be free space.”

About karman line:

  • The 1967 outer space treaty says that space should be accessible to all countries and can be freely and scientifically investigated.
    • Defining a legal boundary of what and where space is can help avoid disputes and keep track of space activities and human space travel.
  • Some countries, including the united states, believe that defining or delimiting outer space is not necessary.
  • Various experts on space law stated that now is the time to define what space truly is because more and more commercial companies have plans to go to space.
    • In the long-term, these private companies are going to want the legal certainty that would be provided by having a set altitude or limit.

So where is space?

  • It has been tricky understanding where our atmosphere ends and what should be called space.
  • American astrophysicists and science communicators do not believe branson’s flight can be termed as space travel, and that nasa was able to perform a similar sub-orbital flight about 60 years ago.
  • In 2009, researchers from the university of calgary measured the winds of earth’s atmosphere and the flow of charged particles in space and wrote that the edge of space begins at 118km above sea level.

Layers of the atmosphere:

  • The earth’s atmosphere has been divided into various layers:
    • The troposphere starting at the earth’s surface and extending about 14.5 km high,
    • Stratosphere extending to 50 km,
    • Mesosphere to 85 km,
    • Thermosphere to 600 kilometres and
    • Exosphere to 10,000 km.
  • The chemical composition of the atmosphere was largely constant up to the mesopause, or the boundary between the mesosphere and the thermosphere.



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