Science in 2012: Indian scientists aim at moon and beyond
New Delhi: Indian scientists burrowed the forest beds in the northeast to discover a new family of vertebrates, built a satellite that can peer through clouds and dark nights, and grappled to commission the first large nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in 2012.
Indian science also aimed beyond the moon, a frontier they conquered in 2008, with their eyes set on exploring Mars hoping to soon join the select group of nations who have launched scientific missions to study the red planet.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his Independence Day address, announced that India would launch a space mission to Mars in 2013.
However, there were some low points as four leading scientists, including former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair were barred by the government from holding any official posts for their alleged role in the controversial deal between Antrix Corporation and Devas Multimedia Ltd for S-band space segment, which was annulled.
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) got a shot in the arm with its clot-buster drug developed by its constituent lab Institute of Microbial Technology got the permission for clinical trials. The drug is an advanced version of streptokinase.
Another CSIR institute, Central Drug Research Laboratory signed an agreement with a US-based company for pre-clinical and clinical development of an oral medicine for rapid fracture healing.
Scientists in India joined the celebrations when CERN researchers announced in July they had found what appeared to be the elusive Higgs Boson that gives mass to matter.
Scientists from an assortment of Indian institutes played a key role in decoding the data generated by collisions of protons in the 27-km Large Hadron Collider on the Franco-Swiss border, a facility which they had also helped develop.
The Indo-Russian team of scientists, working at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, were faced with a challenge as they struggled to commission its first 1,000 MW unit.
The VVER-type reactor, built by Nuclear Power Corporation in collaboration with a Russian firm, was to be commissioned last year, but work on the project had to be suspended for nearly eight months due to anti-nuclear protests.
Another challenge to the scientific community was in the form of an adverse reports by a Parliamentary Standing Committee on genetically-modified crops and a technical panel appointed by the Supreme Court.
The year started on a good note for Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with the launch of a new mission control and launch control centre at its spaceport in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
This was followed by the launch of Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-I) on April 28. The satellite has an indigenously developed synthetic aperture radar, which enables imaging of the earth's surface features during both day and night under all weather conditions.
At 1858 kg, Risat-I was also the heaviest satellite to be launched by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
ISRO also completed a century of launches when it put into orbit two foreign satellites -- SPOT 6, a French earth observation satellite and a 15-kg micro satellite Proiteres from Japan in September.
In August, Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh breathed his last after a battle with liver cancer.
The launch of a Mar Orbiter Mission, planned for November 2013, commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power plants, work on developing a rover to land on moon is expected to keep scientists busy next year.