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EXPLORATIONS - July 24, 2002: Space Digest - 2002-07-22


This is Mary Tillotson.


And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today, we tell about plans to build a new international space research center at Cape Kennedy. We tell about new pictures of a star that exploded ten-thousand years ago. And we begin with a report about a new space communications system that is being built in Spain.



Spanish workers are building a huge communications device near Madrid. It will soon be used to communicate with all spacecraft. It will also help NASA study the planet Mars and comets that travel through space.

The large device looks like a huge round dish. It is thirty-four meters across. It weighs more than five-hundred tons. The device is a radio antenna. It sends and receives radio signals to and from spacecraft. It also guides the radio signals to a protected, underground electronics room.


The antenna is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California is responsible for the Deep Space Network.

The network connects different kinds of radio communications for spacecraft exploring the solar system. It operates huge antenna dishes in California, Spain and Australia. These communications stations take turns linking with different spacecraft as the Earth turns.

The Deep Space Network antennas catch information sent from spacecraft. These spacecraft can be as near as an orbit around Earth, or millions of kilometers away. The antennas also send commands to spacecraft. The new antenna in Madrid will increase the communicating power of the center in Spain by thirty-three percent.


Finishing the new antenna on time is extremely important. NASA needs this antenna to communicate with several new projects. The need for space communications will greatly expand by November of next year. NASA says that for three months beginning in November, two-thousand-three, the Deep Space Network will be very busy.

The network will be communicating with three devices that will land and explore some of the surface of Mars. It also will communicate with two other spacecraft in orbit around Mars. The five spacecraft orbiting and landing on Mars are from the United States, Europe and Japan.

At the same time, two other new spacecraft will be gathering information about comets. The Deep Space Network will also have to keep in communication with all of the other spacecraft that are already traveling through the galaxy.


The device that is being built in Spain will join five other thirty-four meter antennas. Three are at the network’s Goldstone station near the city of Barstow in the western American state of California. One is already at the communications station near Madrid. Another is near Canberra, Australia. Each of the three communications stations also has a seventy-meter antenna and several smaller antennas.

The new addition to the Deep Space Network will help provide exciting new discoveries to report in the future.



Once there was a huge star, millions of kilometers from Earth. This huge star was almost twenty-five times larger than our Sun. Space scientists say large stars like this do not live long. They burn their fuel a thousand times faster than our Sun. They use up their supply of nuclear fuel in tens of millions of years.

When their fuel is almost gone, a series of events takes place. The star first begins to cool. In the end, the material of the star begins to fall back into itself. This causes gravity to increase by large amounts. In the end, a huge explosion results. The material from the explosion travels into space at more than seventy-two million kilometers per hour. A star that explodes like this is called a supernova.


NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has sent to Earth photographs of the remains of a huge star. NASA scientists say it exploded more than ten-thousand years ago.

Light from that explosion first reached Earth in the sixteen-hundreds. That light had traveled ten thousand light years. It was so bright it could even be seen during the day.

All that is left of the huge star are long, thin clouds that look like ribbons. The Hubble pictures show them as long pieces of red, green, pink and blue. NASA scientists say the colors are caused by different chemicals. The dark blue color is caused by oxygen. The color red is created by sulfur.

The photographs were made by the Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera Two. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California, designed and built the camera. The remains of the dead star are called Cassiopeia A, or just “Cas A” for short. Cas A is the youngest known supernova that remains in our Milky Way galaxy.


The new photographs of Cas A are permitting scientists to study the supernova’s remains very clearly. For the first time, scientists can study the material from the dead star.

Scientists say the new pictures show this material has become thousands of small groups of gas particles which are slowly cooling. They say each group will someday become new stars and planets.

NASA officials say the new Hubble photographs were taken in January two-thousand and January two-thousand and two.

If you have a computer that can link with the Internet, you can see Hubble’s beautiful picture of Cas A. Type in w-w-w dot v-o-a-n-e-w-s dot c-o-m and follow the link to Special English.



In February two-thousand-one, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the state of Florida agreed to design, build and operate a new science center.

The building is named the Space Experiment Research and Processing Laboratory. It will serve as a major link to the International Space Station for science experiments. It will also be used for experiments in biological science here on Earth. And it will be used for research about the ecology of the area surrounding Kennedy Space Center.

Scientists who work in life science research being done on the International Space Station will use the new building. They will prepare experiments to be launched on the Space Shuttle from the Kennedy Space Center to the Space Station.


The Space Experiment Research and Processing Laboratory represents a joint effort between NASA and Florida. The state will provide thirty-million dollars to build the science laboratory. The building is expected to be ready for use in two-thousand-four.

The new science laboratory is the first building in the International Space Research Park at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The new space research park is to be a research and development center for the exploration of space. NASA says it will combine research strengths in areas such as space technology, energy, ecology sciences and biology sciences.

The International Space Research Park will be the major area where science experiments are prepared for the International Space Station. NASA would like it to provide a base for groups interesting in working in space science and space exploration. It hopes to include both government and private groups. These private groups would include major research universities and industries involved in advanced technology.

NASA planners say they believe that top scientists and space technology engineers will want to work at the new center. They will want to do this because the new research center will be linked to the Kennedy Space Center.


NASA officials say the International Space Research Park will be built on more than one-hundred-sixty hectares of land. They hope the space research center will be used by countries around the world that are interested in space research.

NASA says it will provide the most modern structures for this kind of research. It also says the research center will not be used for the building of large space vehicles or equipment that might be a danger to others who use the strutures.

NASA says the International Space Research Park will support the exploration of space and help improve the economy of the state of Florida. Officials say the new research center will make the Kennedy Space Center the world’s leader in space science, development and exploration.



This program was written by Paul Thompson. Our director was Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer was Keith Holmes. This is Mary Tillotson.


And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.