Thursday, September 29, 2016

US and Cuba, finally ice is melting

Kerry at U.S. Embassy’s Flag-Raising Ceremony in Cuba
Recently I watched Godfather I and II (again). In second part, there was a scene where Michael Corleone said, soldiers are paid to fight but rebels are not; and there is a chance that they will win. Following sequence of events proved him right. Rebels took over and protagonists escaped to US.

Actual take over happened on 1959 January, when rebel forces led by Fidel Castro finally able to oust Batista. This event led to rupture of ties between Cuba and US. Later incidents like, Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis of 1962, Cold war, Suspension of Cuba from Organization of American States (OAS), trade sanctions, Cuban support of MPLA in Angola etc only made it worse. Cuban missile crisis almost took the world to third (and probably last) world war. Last because there may not be enough people left to fight fourth world war. 

Cold war didn’t finish in this part of the world even after the breakup of USSR. However, a lot of this changed for Cuba. She lost her major benefactor – USSR and Rubles. Later Cuba found some solace in neighboring Venezuela and her leader Hugo Chavez. Like Castro, Chavez was also against US and Market economy. However, mismanagement of Petroleum reserves and fall of oil price in global market crushed Venezuela.

Cuba also witnessed an administrative change - leadership changed from fiercely anti American (but aging) Fidel to his brother Raul Castro. In US also Obama - who received Nobel Prize for Peace before he actually did something - tried to restore relations with Cuba. He may already considering this as his legacy and probably want to make complete reset before he leaves office.

Last year, US re-established their embassy in Cuba and also received credentials from José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez (first Cuban ambassador to US since 1961). 

Now Obama selected Jeffrey DeLaurentis (served as chief of mission for US in Havana since 2014) as new Ambassador. This is indeed a good move to normalize relations between two countries. 

Obama administration is also trying hard to relax restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba.

However, an effective progress also requires the lifting of trade embargo which requires help from Congress. Without this, there are limitations to improvements Obama can make. Will Congress rise to the occasion and repeal the ban before Obama leave office? Will the new government continue the polices of rapprochement? Will Raul government go ahead with administrative, economic and political reforms? Let's wait and watch. 

Whatever it may be relationship between two nations is certainly going to improve and I believe Obama will be able to leave office with some justification for the Nobel Peace prize. 


Photo Courtesy: US Embassy Website

Thank you Rosetta

Rosetta’s lander Philae has returned the first panoramic image from the surface of a comet
On Friday Rosetta will finally say good bye to humans and jump right in to comet; marking the end for 12-year long eventful expedition. 

Built by ESA (European Space Agency), Rossetta’s primary mission is to study Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and send all information back to earth for further analysis. For last two years she was roaming around the comet and transmitting data back to earth. Problem is, as Comet move further away from Sun, her solar panels won’t be able to generate enough power to sustain the mission. 

Alternate way is to hibernate Rosetta for now and awake her later (when the comet approaches sun again). However scientists decided against this approach, as it may not be possible to wake her up later. Instead scientists decided to capture close-up data while Rosetta hit the comet in her final sprint. 

It’s a job well done by Rosetta and ESA team behind it (Rosetta, also had small lander called Philae which it send to the surface of Comet 67P back in Nov 2014). 

Some important findings from Rosetta are, 
a. Comets Can Stick Together.
b. Initial images of Comet 67P confirmed that the comet is not in round shape.
c. Rosetta’s early observations confirmed the lack of much ice on its surface. 
d. Scientists now know for sure that water did not come from comets like Comet 67P. Quantity of deuterium in the stream of water molecules coming off was much higher than the one in Earth’s water.


Courtesy: Multiple Newspapers, ESA.