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Space Digest


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VOICE ONE:

I’m Faith Lapidus.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we report about the discovery of a number of very young galaxies in space. We tell about the American space agency’s plan to launch a space vehicle designed to crash into a comet. And we have news from the planet Saturn. But we begin with a report about some important gifts brought to the crew of the International Space Station.

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On December twenty-fifth, a Russian cargo rocket linked with the International Space Station. The cargo vehicle carried two and one-half tons of food, fuel, oxygen, water and other supplies. It also carried Christmas presents for the Space Station’s American Commander Leroy Chiao and Russian Cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov.

The Progress M-fifty-one cargo vehicle was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December twenty-third.

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The M-fifty-one cargo vehicle arrived just in time. American space agency officials had said the two crewmen on the Space Station had only enough food for two more weeks. They said the two would have had to return to Earth if the supply flight had not been a success.

Russian Soyuz crew vehicles and the Progress cargo ships have been the only links to the Space Station since the Space Shuttle Columbia’s accident in February, two-thousand-three.

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American Space Agency officials hope to launch the Space Shuttle Discovery in May. NASA finished placing the three main engines in Discovery on December eighth. Discovery and its seven-person crew are to fly to the International Space Station. Discovery will carry cargo and science experiments to the station. It will also test new safety equipment and plans. The tests will include Space Shuttle inspection and repair methods.

NASA says the flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery is the first step in plans to finish the International Space Station. It will also be the first step in future exploration goals. These include returning to the Moon and human flights to the planet Mars.

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On December twenty-fourth, the European Space Agency’s Huygens exploration vehicle successfully separated from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Huygens began a three-week trip to the planet Saturn’s moon, Titan.

The Huygens vehicle had been linked to the Cassini spacecraft during the almost seven-year trip to Saturn. Huygens will be the first human-made object to explore Titan. Titan has an unusual environment. Many scientists believe it may be very similar to that of the Earth before life formed. The Huygens exploration vehicle will provide information that will tell scientists if this is true.

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David Southwood is the director of science for the European Space Agency. Mister Southwood said the release of Huygens is the start of an exciting period of exploration. He thanked NASA for the Huygens’s ride to Saturn. He said each spacecraft will now continue on its own. He added that Huygens will now attempt to provide the first information from a new world that scientists have dreamed of exploring for many years.

The Huygens exploration vehicle is to enter Titan’s upper atmosphere on January fourteenth. Then it will begin to move down toward the surface.

Huygens will test and report about the atmosphere of Titan as it moves lower. It will send information to the Cassini spacecraft, which will then send it back to Earth. After Huygens reaches the surface of Titan, it will deploy radio equipment and communicate with Earth.

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Gathering information about Titan is one of the most important goals of the Cassini-Huygens flight. Titan is the largest of Saturn’s moons and is larger than the planets Mercury or Pluto. Titan is the only moon in the solar system with an important atmosphere.

Titan’s thick atmosphere hides the surface. However, scientists have guessed that Titan’s surface could have solid, liquid and muddy material. There could be lakes, seas, or rivers. But the extremely cold temperature of Titan would prevent the seas or rivers from having liquid water. Scientists say these rivers might be ice or made of some other chemicals. The Huygens exploration vehicle may soon answer some of these questions.

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Plans call for NASA to launch its Deep Impact spacecraft January twelfth from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Deep Impact spacecraft will take six months to fly four hundred thirty-one million kilometers into space. It will then fly into the path of the comet Tempel-One. A comet is a relatively small frozen mass that travels around the Sun. Deep Impact will release a special science experiment that will crash into the comet. The experiment weighs three hundred seventy-two kilograms.

The great speed of the crash will create a huge hole in the comet. Huge amounts of material will be forced into space. Deep Impact will observe the event and collect information about the material from the comet. It will send information and pictures back to Earth.

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Deep Impact will not be the only instrument to observe this event. NASA’s Chandra, Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes will be observing from near-Earth space. On Earth, people will also be able to see the event with the aid of a telescope. NASA officials say even a small telescope will permit a person to see material from the comet fly into space.

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Scientists believe the material inside the comet is very similar to material formed at the beginning of the solar system. Andy Dantzler is the director of the Solar System division at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Mister Dantzler says understanding conditions that led to the formation of planets is one of NASA’s exploration goals. He says Deep Impact will attempt to answer questions about the beginning of our solar system.

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A galaxy is a system of about one hundred thousand million stars. Our Sun is a member of the Milky Way Galaxy. There are thousands of millions of galaxies in the observable universe. Exactly when and how galaxies formed in the Universe is a subject of current research.

NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer space telescope has discovered what appear to be a number of very young galaxies.

Chris Martin is a scientist with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. He is also the leading investigator for the Galaxy Evolution Explorer at the university. Mister Martin says scientists knew that huge young galaxies existed thousands of millions of years ago. But scientists thought they had all grown much older, like our own Milky Way galaxy. He says the universe may still be giving birth to new galaxies if these newly discovered galaxies are very young.

Mister Martin and other scientists in the project have discovered about thirty-six new galaxies using NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer. Scientists say the discovery means we can study young galaxies to see how they develop.

Tim Heckman is a scientist with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He says the discovery is like finding a living animal that scientists believed had been dead for thousands of years. Mister Heckman said now we can study the ancestors to galaxies much like ours. He says the newly discovered galaxies are between one hundred million and one thousand million years old. Our Milky Way Galaxy is about ten thousand million years old.

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The Galaxy Evolution Explorer is an orbiting space telescope. It observes galaxies in ultraviolet light. It has been used to see light that first started moving toward earth more than ten thousand million years ago.

The Galaxy Evolution Explorer was launched in April of two thousand-three. Its main goal is to produce a map of galaxies. The Galaxy Evolution Explorer will also identify objects in far space for further study. It will also create huge amounts of information and photographs that will be given to scientists and the public. Scientists hope this will lead to new information about how our own Milky Way Galaxy was formed.

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This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I’m Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program in VOA Special English.

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