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EXPLORATIONS - November 6, 2002: Space Digest - 2002-11-05


VOICE ONE:

This is Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we tell about a new space telescope. We tell about a new moon found near the planet Uranus. We tell about a NASA spacecraft that is on its way to Saturn. We also tell about new photographs taken by the Mars Global Surveyor. And we tell about music written with the aid of sounds from space.

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VOICE ONE:

NASA has chosen the T-R-W company of Redondo Beach, California, to build the next space telescope. Plans call for the telescope to be ready for launch in two-thousand-ten.

NASA officials say the new telescope will be placed in orbit one-point-five-million kilometers in space. It will be in an area of space called the second Lagrange Point. This area of space is where the pull of gravity from the sun and the Earth are the same.

NASA says the new telescope will be much stronger and will be able to look much farther into deep space than the older Hubble Space Telescope.

VOICE TWO:

A space telescope uses a special mirror to collect light from distant objects. The light the mirror captures produces the images of these objects. The new space telescope is stronger than the Hubble because it can collect much more light than the Hubble can. The Hubble’s light-collecting mirror is about two-and-one-half meters in diameter.

The new space telescope’s mirror will be six meters in diameter. The new telescope will be able to see objects that give off much less light and are much farther away.

NASA says the T-R-W company has agreed to design and build the new telescope for about eight-hundred-twenty-five million dollars. The T-R-W company will be responsible for placing the science instruments into the new space telescope. The company will also test the new space telescope before the flight and once it reaches its new home in space.

VOICE ONE:

The Hubble Space Telescope was named for American scientist Edwin Hubble. The new Space Telescope will be named the James Webb Space Telescope. Mister Webb was NASA’s second top administrator. He was responsible for leading NASA during the Apollo series of explorations that landed the first humans on the moon. He began several science programs at NASA and was responsible for more than seventy-five launches of spacecraft during his time as NASA administrator.

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VOICE TWO:

A team of scientists has discovered a new moon in orbit around the planet Uranus. They named the new moon S/2001 U1 (s-two-thousand-one u-one). Uranus now has a total of twenty-one known moons.

The new moon and five similar moons have very unusual orbits around the planet. Scientists think these unusual moons are the result of a crash of larger objects that took place when the planet was being formed.

Christophe Dumas is a scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He was one of the scientists who discovered the new moon.

Mister Dumas says this kind of moon is very difficult to find because it is so far from the planet. He says it is easily hidden among stars that can be seen in the distance behind Uranus. He also said the unusual orbit of the moon made it difficult to find.

Two scientists first observed the new moon. They are Matthew Holman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachuttes and J-J Kavelaars of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada. They discovered the moon in images from the Cerro Tololo Observatory in Chile.

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VOICE ONE:

The NASA spacecraft Cassini is traveling to the planet Saturn. Plans call for it to arrive there in July two-thousand-four. The Cassini is carrying an instrument called the Huygens [HOY-guns] Probe.

The Huygens Probe is designed to be lowered by parachute to the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. This will take place in January, two-thousand-five.

Recently, an electronic report was sent by Cassini to Earth about the condition of the Huygens Probe. The electronic report was the result of about five hours of tests. Shaun Standley is a scientist with the European Space Agency.

The Huygens Probe is a European Space Agency project. Mister Standley says the five hours of tests are done on the Huygens Probe about evey six months. The tests include making every moving part of the probe do its job. The tests also include an inspection of the space vehicle’s power, computers and radio communication devices. The recent tests showed the Huygens Probe is working perfectly. Scientists at the Huygens Probe Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany studied the results of the tests.

VOICE TWO:

The Huygens Probe carries many different instruments. One instrument will measure wind and wind direction as the parachute carries the Huygens Probe toward the surface of Titan. Other instruments include special cameras that will send back photographs of the surface of Titan. The probe also has equipment that will study and report about the surface of Titan after it lands. It also carries instruments that will measure different gases in the atmosphere of the large moon.

The Cassini Spacecraft was launched in October, nineteen-ninety-seven. It still must travel through space for another two years before it reaches Saturn.

The Cassini spacecraft and its Huygens Probe will provide information about an area of our solar system that we know little about. The information the two spacecraft gather will be shared with more than two-hundred scientists around the world.

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VOICE ONE:

NASA’s Global Surveyor satellite is continuing to send home extremely good photographs of the planet Mars. It has sent back more than one-hundred-twelve-thousand images. The new images were taken between August of two-thousand-one and January of two-thousand-two. The images show several weather events including evidence of dust storms on Mars.

One of the images taken by the Global Surveyor is now considered the best image ever taken of the red planet. The photograph is of an area called the Newton Basin.

The photograph shows two areas that were made by space objects hitting the surface of Mars. Another photograph shows frozen water vapor or frost on the wall of the hole made by the space object. The photo also shows sand on the surface of Mars.

VOICE TWO:

Scientists hope to use many of these photographs to find good landing areas for the Mars Exploration Rover. Plans call for the Rover to be launched next year.

Global Surveyor was launched in November, nineteen-ninety-six and entered its Martian orbit almost one year later.

The Global Surveyor has now studied all of the Martian surface and atmosphere. It has returned more information about the red planet than all other Mars missions combined.

If you have a computer and would like to see many of the Global Surveyor photographs, have your computer search for the two words NASA and MARS: N-A-S-A and M-A-R-S.

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VOICE ONE:

Don Gurnett is a scientist working at the University of Iowa. For many years he has placed scientific instruments on many spacecraft. These include NASA’s Voyagers, Galileo, Cassini and more than twenty-four other spacecraft. For more than forty years Mister Gurnett has used instruments to record the sounds of space.

The sounds he records are created by electric energy in space. This energy can be heard as radio signals. Listen and you can hear some of the sounds Mister Gurnett recorded.

(CUT: SPACE SOUNDS)

VOICE TWO:

Recently, musician Terry Riley wrote music using the sounds of space for the famous string instrument group, the Kronos Quartet. The new music is called “Sun Rings.” Part of the music is called “Earth Whistlers.” Another is called “Planet Elf Sindoori.” The music was performed for the first time last month at the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, Iowa. The Kronos Quartet has not said if they will record the unusual music.

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VOICE ONE:

This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

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

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