New Delhi: Rosetta, the European space mission that became the first to land a spacecraft on a comet—an event marked by drama and a happy ending—has been named the most important scientific breakthrough of 2014 by Science journal.

The European Space Agency mothership, called Rosetta, created history when it landed its three-legged Philae module on a comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, lying beyond Mars, on 12 November—10 years after the spacecraft was launched.

It was a complicated and hair-raising mission for Philae. 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. With insufficient sunlight to recharge its batteries, Philae got down to work immediately, heroically sending down important data over 57 hours.

“I’m feeling a bit tired, did you get all my data? I might take a nap," said a Philae Twitter account run by the German Aerospace Centre to give the three-legged lander a voice.

It was the first-ever soft landing on a comet, and data from Rosetta and Philae are already shedding new light on the formation and evolution of such comets, the Science journal noted.

“Philae’s landing was an amazing feat and got the world’s attention," said Tim Appenzeller, news editor of Science. “But the whole Rosetta mission is the breakthrough. It’s giving scientists a ringside seat as a comet warms up, breathes, and evolves."

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 67P’s halo.

Such findings could help researchers figure out whether it was comets or asteroids that brought water to Earth when the solar system was young.

Here are the nine other scientific breakthroughs of 2014 as selected by Science journal, in no particular order:

Dinosaur-bird transition: A series of papers that compared the fossils of early birds and dinosaurs with modern birds revealed where modern birds come from and what led to the explosion of bird species after the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction about 66 million years ago.

Young blood fixes old: Researchers demonstrated that blood from a young mouse can rejuvenate the muscles and brains of older mice. The findings have resulted in a clinical trial in which Alzheimer’s patients are receiving plasma from young donors.

Manipulating memory: Using optogenetics—a technique that manipulates neuronal activity with beams of light—researchers showed that they could manipulate targeted memories in mice. By removing memories that were already there, and inserting false ones, the researchers even changed the emotional memories of a mouse.

Getting robots to cooperate: New software and interactive robots that can instruct swarms of termite-inspired bots to build a simple structure have shown that robots can work as a team—without human supervision.

Neuromorphic chips: Computer engineers at IBM and elsewhere rolled out the first large-scale neuromorphic chips (inspired from human brain architecture), which are designed to process information the way living brains would.

Beta cells: Two groups found two different methods for growing cells in the laboratory that strongly resemble beta cells, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. This will result in more opportunities for scientists to study diabetes.

Indonesian cave art: Researchers discovered that hand stencils and animal paintings in a cave in Indonesia, once thought to be 10,000 years old, were actually between 35,000 and 40,000 years old. These findings meant that humans in Asia were producing symbolic art as early as the first European cave painters.

CubeSats: Cheap satellites with sides that are just 10 centimetres squared, called CubeSats, became popular this year, even though they have existed for decades. These satellites have carried out important studies this year, according to researchers.

Expanding the genetic alphabet: Researchers have engineered E. coli bacteria that harbours two additional nucleotides—X and Y—in addition to the normal G, T, C and A that make up the standard building blocks of DNA. Such bacteria can be used to create designer proteins with so-called unnatural amino acids.

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