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European space mission Rosetta named as Breakthrough of the Year 2014 by Science journal

Dec 23, 2014 14:01 IST

The European space mission Rosetta was on 19 December 2014 named as the most important scientific Breakthrough of the Year 2014 by Science journal.

Rosetta landed its three-legged Philae module on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014, 10 years after the spacecraft was launched.

At the end of a seven-hour journey after being separated from Rosetta, Philae bounced twice off the speeding comet’s surface before making a soft landing, but it appeared to have rested on its side and in the shadows of a cliff.

Rosetta’s collection of spectrometers, known as the Rosetta Orbiter spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA), has detected water, methane, and hydrogen as well as some rarer molecules, including formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide in the comet 67P’s halo.

About the Rosetta Mission
The mission began in March 2004. It was launched from Kourou in French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. The spacecraft is an aluminium box weighing about 3000 kg and carries Philae, which is about 100 kg.

Rosetta reached the Comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014. It has been orbiting it  and scrutinizing it from as close as 10 kilometers away. The mission will end in December 2015.

Runner-ups for the Breakthrough of the year 2014 as selected by Science journal

1. The birth of birds: In 2014, evolutionary biologists figured out the spectacular evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds. A series of papers that compared the fossils of early birds and dinosaurs with modern birds revealed from where the modern birds came.
2. Young blood fixes old: Researchers showed that blood or blood components from a young mouse can rejuvenate an old mouse's muscles and brain. The research strengthened the evidence that something in young blood can reverse multiple signs of aging.
3. Robots that cooperate: Researchers have come up with new software and interactive robots capable of cooperating on rudimentary tasks. The study has shown that robots can work as a team without human supervision.
4. Chips that mimic the brain: In 2014, computer engineers at IBM and other companies rolled out the first large-scale neuromorphic chips that are designed to process information in ways more similar to living brains.
5. Europe's cave art has a rival: Researchers discovered that hand stencils and animal paintings in a cave in Indonesia was 35000 to 40000 years old. It was once thought to be only 10000 years old. These findings meant that humans in Asia were producing symbolic art as early as the first European cave painters.
6. Cells that might cure diabetes: Studied have sought to turn human embryonic stem cells into cells of the pancreas called β cells. β cells respond to rising blood sugar by making insulin, a hormone that allows cells to take up and use glucose. These cells might provide a cure for Diabetes.
7. Manipulating memories: Researchers discovered ways to manipulate specific memories in mice using optogenetics, a powerful technique that can trigger nerve cells in animals' brains. In a series of experiments, they showed that they could delete existing memories and incept false ones.
8. Rise of the CubeSat: Cheap satellites with sides that are just 10 centimetres squared are called CubeSats. They became popular in 2014 as these satellites have carried out important studies this year.
9. Giving life a bigger genetic alphabet: Researchers engineered the E. coli bacteria to incorporate two additional nucleotides X and Y into their genetic alphabet that make up the standard building blocks of DNA. There are four natural nucleotides G, C, A and T.

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Read more Current Affairs on: Rosetta , Breakthrough of the Year 2014 , Science journal , comet 67P

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