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Year in review: Stellar adventures, earthly worries

In 2005, the Space Shuttle returned to orbit, but bird flu and big storms sounded an uneasy note.

4 min read

Year in Review: Science

The Year in Review

The year of the stargazers

As the worlds of science and technology continue to merge, the editors of CNET News.com decided it would be a natural progression to expand news coverage to include new fields such as space exploration, nanotechnology, biotechnology and robotics.

When it comes to science, the year 2005 might be remembered best for the raging debate in schools and the courts over teaching intelligent design vs. the theory of evolution to schoolchildren.

But apart from that, scientific communities were alive this year in many areas, including space exploration, artificial intelligence and bioinformatics, or the use of computer in the study of biology. Scientists also saw the woeful ramifications of global warming take effect through the likes of Hurricane Katrina and took steps to develop technologies to better forecast and communicate during disasters.

In the first shuttle mission since the destruction of Columbia in 2003, NASA launched the space shuttle Discovery to land at the International Space Station this year. And although the 14-day mission was successful in restocking the ISS, NASA temporarily grounded future flights of its aging shuttles after learning that a large chunk of insulating foam broke off Discovery's external fuel tank during launch. The action threw future missions into a state of uncertainty, and NASA announced in December that it hopes to pass on the job of transporting cargo and crew to and from the space station to private companies.

Meanwhile, NASA also started testing a series of robots such as Robonaut, which it hopes to put on a shuttle flight in 2007 as part of a program to develop bots to assist humans in outer space.

Another big theme this year was technology development for detecting natural calamities faster and alerting the populace beforehand. Disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami of late 2004 and Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast in early September wreaked havoc on habitants of those areas, and prompted demand for better systems to understand, forecast and protect against future hazards.

The spread of the contagious disease Avian Influenza in Asia and into Europe this year also stoked fears that a pandemic is approaching--another cause for disaster preparedness technology.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence got a big boost this year. Scientists around the country engineered AI-powered cars to race in the second annual DARPA Grand Challenge, a government sponsored 144-mile race in the desert. This year, for the first time, four contestants crossed the finish line, a milestone for the field of robotics and what will likely touch off a wave of innovation in cars and other products in the years to come.

Artificial intelligence technology is already catching on commercially. The Massachusetts-based robotics specialist iRobot went public in October and maintained healthy sales of its smart vacuum cleaner, the Roomba. The company also announced a follow-up product, the Scooba, which adds mopping capabilities to the device.

--Stefanie Olsen

2005 Highlights

Outer space: The in thing

With the shuttle safely home, NASA turns its eyes to Mars. Also: Taking a trip to the moon.
August 10, 2005

Tech vs. Mother Nature

When disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes strike, high tech often proves just how fragile it can be.
October 21, 2005

A bird flu resource guide

We could be just a mutation away from a deadly superflu, but many questions remain. Here's a reality check.
November 3, 2005

Americans open to teaching creationism, poll says

More than 150 years later, Darwin's ideas still divide many, according to July poll.
September 6, 2005

Robots shift car tech into high gear

The wizardry behind vehicles powered with artificial intelligence is heading toward popular cars.
October 18, 2005

Stanford wins $2 million in robotic car race

The team's robotic car, "Stanley," drove autonomously across 131.6 miles in the Mojave Desert in six hours and 53 minutes.
October 9, 2005

From PlanetQuest, software for stargazers

Nonprofit wants to harness the computing power of millions and help people discover new planets and stars.
May 31, 2005

Innovations battle natural calamities

Scientists hope integrating cutting-edge technology projects will help predict and mitigate natural disasters.
December 9, 2005

Intelligence in the Internet age

Philosophers, technologists and, yes, writers debate whether today's technology is making for a brainier world.
September 19, 2005

Why Google hired Vint Cerf

Internet pioneer has big ideas for Google Earth and mobile phones. He's also got his eyes on outer space.
September 9, 2005

Hawking's cosmological riff

One of the world's most famous physicists offers his observations on the origin of the universe.
November 11, 2005

Discovery lands with its future up in the air

Even after a safe landing by one shuttle, it's not clear what will happen to the program. When should the fleet be put out to pasture?
August 10, 2005

In Katrina's wake

Massive hurricane slams into the Gulf Coast, turning lives upside down. It's a long road ahead for recovery efforts.
September 8, 2005

Behind the headlines

 

Year in Review: Science

The Year in Review

The year of the stargazers

As the worlds of science and technology continue to merge, the editors of CNET News.com decided it would be a natural progression to expand news coverage to include new fields such as space exploration, nanotechnology, biotechnology and robotics.

When it comes to science, the year 2005 might be remembered best for the raging debate in schools and the courts over teaching intelligent design vs. the theory of evolution to schoolchildren.

But apart from that, scientific communities were alive this year in many areas, including space exploration, artificial intelligence and bioinformatics, or the use of computer in the study of biology. Scientists also saw the woeful ramifications of global warming take effect through the likes of Hurricane Katrina and took steps to develop technologies to better forecast and communicate during disasters.

In the first shuttle mission since the destruction of Columbia in 2003, NASA launched the space shuttle Discovery to land at the International Space Station this year. And although the 14-day mission was successful in restocking the ISS, NASA temporarily grounded future flights of its aging shuttles after learning that a large chunk of insulating foam broke off Discovery's external fuel tank during launch. The action threw future missions into a state of uncertainty, and NASA announced in December that it hopes to pass on the job of transporting cargo and crew to and from the space station to private companies.

Meanwhile, NASA also started testing a series of robots such as Robonaut, which it hopes to put on a shuttle flight in 2007 as part of a program to develop bots to assist humans in outer space.

Another big theme this year was technology development for detecting natural calamities faster and alerting the populace beforehand. Disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami of late 2004 and Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast in early September wreaked havoc on habitants of those areas, and prompted demand for better systems to understand, forecast and protect against future hazards.

The spread of the contagious disease Avian Influenza in Asia and into Europe this year also stoked fears that a pandemic is approaching--another cause for disaster preparedness technology.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence got a big boost this year. Scientists around the country engineered AI-powered cars to race in the second annual DARPA Grand Challenge, a government sponsored 144-mile race in the desert. This year, for the first time, four contestants crossed the finish line, a milestone for the field of robotics and what will likely touch off a wave of innovation in cars and other products in the years to come.

Artificial intelligence technology is already catching on commercially. The Massachusetts-based robotics specialist iRobot went public in October and maintained healthy sales of its smart vacuum cleaner, the Roomba. The company also announced a follow-up product, the Scooba, which adds mopping capabilities to the device.

--Stefanie Olsen

2005 Highlights

Outer space: The in thing

With the shuttle safely home, NASA turns its eyes to Mars. Also: Taking a trip to the moon.
August 10, 2005

Tech vs. Mother Nature

When disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes strike, high tech often proves just how fragile it can be.
October 21, 2005

A bird flu resource guide

We could be just a mutation away from a deadly superflu, but many questions remain. Here's a reality check.
November 3, 2005

Americans open to teaching creationism, poll says

More than 150 years later, Darwin's ideas still divide many, according to July poll.
September 6, 2005

Robots shift car tech into high gear

The wizardry behind vehicles powered with artificial intelligence is heading toward popular cars.
October 18, 2005

Stanford wins $2 million in robotic car race

The team's robotic car, "Stanley," drove autonomously across 131.6 miles in the Mojave Desert in six hours and 53 minutes.
October 9, 2005

From PlanetQuest, software for stargazers

Nonprofit wants to harness the computing power of millions and help people discover new planets and stars.
May 31, 2005

Innovations battle natural calamities

Scientists hope integrating cutting-edge technology projects will help predict and mitigate natural disasters.
December 9, 2005

Intelligence in the Internet age

Philosophers, technologists and, yes, writers debate whether today's technology is making for a brainier world.
September 19, 2005

Why Google hired Vint Cerf

Internet pioneer has big ideas for Google Earth and mobile phones. He's also got his eyes on outer space.
September 9, 2005

Hawking's cosmological riff

One of the world's most famous physicists offers his observations on the origin of the universe.
November 11, 2005

Discovery lands with its future up in the air

Even after a safe landing by one shuttle, it's not clear what will happen to the program. When should the fleet be put out to pasture?
August 10, 2005

In Katrina's wake

Massive hurricane slams into the Gulf Coast, turning lives upside down. It's a long road ahead for recovery efforts.
September 8, 2005

Behind the headlines