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EXPLORATIONS - January 2, 2001: Space in 2001 - 2001-12-28


VOICE ONE:

This is Bob Doughty.

VOICE TWO:

And this is Doug Johnson with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we tell about some of the important space news of the past year. We begin with the first permanent human home in space.

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VOICE ONE:

Last year was the first full year that humans lived in a permanent place in space. On November First, Two-Thousand, an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts took their places as the first crew of the International Space Station. The commander of the first crew was American Bill Shepherd. The other members were Russian Cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev.

The three were launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodome in Kazakhstan.

Now, the fourth crew of the International Space Station is in orbit. They arrived at the International Space Station December Seventh on the American Space Shuttle Endeavour. The crew commander is Russian Cosmonaut Yury Onufrienko. American Astronauts Daniel Bursch and Carl Walz are the flight engineers.

VOICE TWO:

During the past year, the four crews of the International Space Station have been a mix of American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts. One American woman, Susan Helms, was a member of the second crew to live in the space station.

NASA says future crews of the space station will be a mix of astronauts from the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency and Japan.

VOICE ONE:

The International Space Station is a cooperative effort by sixteen nations. When it is completed it will provide more room for space research than any spacecraft ever built.

In the past year, the space station’s ability to perform useful work has been greatly expanded. During Two-Thousand-One, six space shuttle flights arrived at the International Space Station. The Russian Soyuz rocket also flew to the space station.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis carried the huge United States science laboratory named “Destiny” that will be used for experiments in space.

VOICE TWO:

Since the International Space Station was first placed in orbit, seventy-nine people have visited or worked there as crew members. These men and women have built the space station into a one-hundred-fifty ton powerful device.

In the past year, the International Space Station has become an extremely important research center. Experiments are being done there that could not be repeated on Earth. This is because of the extreme lack of gravity in space. Future research plans include experiments in biology, chemistry, physics, ecology and medicine.

VOICE ONE:

The International Space Station is one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Sunlight shines off huge structures that look like wings. They were added to the space station to gather energy from the Sun. They are the largest and heaviest structures to be carried into space. The sun shines on these wing-like devices making it very easy for people on Earth to see where people are living in space.

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VOICE TWO:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft successfully entered an orbit around the planet Mars in October. It left Earth on April Seventh, Two-Thousand-One. It flew four-hundred-sixty million kilometers to reach Mars. NASA officials said it reached its planned orbit with no problems.

In November, the American space agency received the first pictures of Mars taken by the Odyssey. The pictures were taken from about twenty-two thousand kilometers above the South Pole of the planet. They showed areas of carbon dioxide ice at the southern end of Mars.

VOICE ONE:

Beginning in February, Odyssey will start a two and one-half year science project. The Odyssey spacecraft has several important tasks.

Odyssey does not carry instruments that can search for life on Mars. Yet, the spacecraft’s instruments can search for information that will help researchers understand if the environment of Mars can support life now. Or it will help them discover if Mars ever could have supported life.

Evidence of water is extremely important for deciding if life could exist on Mars. Mars is too cold to permit liquid water to remain on the surface. Yet, researchers say water on Mars may be trapped under the surface. It may be ice, or possibly a liquid.

Instruments on Odyssey will let scientists measure any amount of permanent ice and how it changes with the seasons. Odyssey’s instruments will also let NASA scientists search Mars for chemical elements. These elements include carbon, silicon, and iron.

Odyssey will seek evidence of radiation on Mars. It will look for possible areas that may be dangerous to future astronaut crews. This information will help NASA know how to plan for a visit to Mars by human explorers.

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VOICE TWO:

The Hubble Space Telescope continues to be an extremely valuable tool for learning about space. In the past year it continued to send back to Earth pictures and other information from the far areas of the universe.

One of Hubble’s most interesting tasks this year was making the first direct examinations and chemical tests of the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. The lead researcher for the project is David Charbonneau of the California Institute of Technology and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Mister Charbonneau says his team used the Hubble Space Telescope to find sodium in the planet’s atmosphere. He says the research team found much less sodium in the atmosphere than expected. The work done by Hubble shows that it is possible for the space telescope and other telescopes to measure the chemicals in a planet’s atmosphere.

The planet that the space telescope examined is about two-hundred-twenty times the size of Earth. It orbits a yellow Sun-like star called H-D two-zero-nine-four-five-eight. The star is about one-hundred-fifty light years away in the constellation Pegasus. NASA says almost anyone can find the star by using a small telescope.

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VOICE ONE:

NASA scientists also heard from an old friend last year. In May, NASA scientists sent and received radio messages from the Pioneer Ten Spacecraft. Pioneer Ten was launched more than twenty-nine years ago on March Second, Nineteen-Seventy-Two. It is now more than eleven-thousand-million kilometers from Earth.

Pioneer Ten was the first spacecraft to pass through a huge area of space rocks called the asteroid belt. It was also the first to take close pictures of the planet Jupiter. In Nineteen-Eighty-Three, Pioneer Ten became the first human-made object to leave our solar system. It did this when it passed beyond the orbit of the planet Pluto.

VOICE TWO:

Larry Lasher is the Pioneer Ten Project Manager for NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.

Mister Lasher said NASA engineers decided the only way to get a signal from the spacecraft was to send a message and wait for an answer. He said Pioneer received the message and answered with a very weak signal.

Radio messages to the spacecraft were sent from a special radio telescope in Madrid, Spain. Pioneer Ten is so far away that radio signals traveling at the speed of light still took almost twenty-four hours to reach the spacecraft and return.

VOICE ONE:

NASA scientists who built Pioneer Ten knew it would pass out of our solar system and into the far reaches of space. They placed pictures of a man and a woman on the spacecraft. They also placed information about Earth and recordings of human voices and the sounds of animals.

Pioneer Ten is traveling toward the star group Taurus, at almost forty-five thousand kilometers an hour. It will pass the nearest star in the constellation in about two-million years.

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VOICE TWO:

This Special English program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer was Dwayne Collins. This is Doug Johnson.

VOICE ONE:

And this is Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.

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