This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we tell about some of the important space news of the past year.
The year two-thousand-two saw the end of the working life of one of the most successful spacecraft ever launched from Earth. On October eighteenth, nineteen-eighty-nine, the American space agency launched a spacecraft named Galileo from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It weighed two-thousand-two-hundred-twenty-three kilograms. Galileo carried more than twenty science instruments and cameras to explore the planet Jupiter and its moons.
Galileo would not arrive in the area near Jupiter for six years. But it began sending valuable information to scientists on Earth before then. Galileo was the first spacecraft to fly near two huge space rocks called asteroids. It flew near the asteroids Gaspra and Ida. And in July of nineteen-ninety-three, Galileo aimed its powerful cameras to photograph the crash of the comet named Shoemaker-Levy with the planet Jupiter. It sent back photographs of the huge explosions caused by the comet.
Galileo began working near Jupiter in December of nineteen-ninety-five.
Last month, NASA scientists began receiving some of the last recorded scientific information from Galileo. For some days, however, NASA officials thought that perhaps Galileo was no longer useful.
In early November, Galileo had moved closer to Jupiter than ever before. The radiation from Jupiter damaged Galileo’s recording equipment. However, NASA scientists used radio signals to carefully repair the damage. Galileo once again began to broadcast the recordings of scientific information it had made about its last and closest flight near Jupiter.
Galileo has been working for five years longer than its designers had planned. It was expected to have a working life of about two years. Yet, it was still doing useful work at the end of last year. Galileo has sent back thousands of photographs of Jupiter and its moons Europa and Io. It also has sent back huge amounts of recorded scientific information.
Galileo has provided scientists with information about the atmosphere of these moons. It also found possible evidence of an underground ocean on the moon Europa. Scientists believe there may even be some kind of life in the underground ocean.
Galileo also made photographs of huge volcanoes exploding on the moon Io. Galileo has been an extremely useful scientific instrument. However its long and useful working life will soon come to an end. Galileo has almost used up the supply of fuel it uses for pointing its radio equipment toward Earth and for controlling its flight path.
While it can still be controlled, scientists have put it on a path that will cause it to crash into Jupiter next September. This flight path prevents Galileo from crashing into the moon Europa where it might damage any possible life in the underground ocean.
Also last year, NASA scientists made the final tests on two vehicles that will soon explore the surface of the planet Mars. The vehicles are two Mars Exploration Rovers.
NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft also made news last year. It arrived in orbit around Mars in October of two-thousand-one. Its useful work began in February, two-thousand-two.
That is when the Mars Odyssey began sending back the first images. They are part of a two-year plan to make the most complete maps ever made of the surface of Mars.
In May, the Mars Odyssey surprised scientists by finding huge amounts of ice water just under the surface. It did this using several of the special instruments on the spacecraft.
William Boynton is the chief researcher for the Mars Odyssey. Mister Boynton says the evidence supplied by Mars Odyssey shows much more ice than was expected. The water ice was found near the red planet’s south pole.
And, scientists say the discovery of this amount of water is just the beginning of huge amounts of important information that will be supplied by the Mars Odyssey in the future.
In October, NASA began releasing Mars Odyssey information and photographs to the scientists of the world. Stephen Saunders is the Odyssey project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Mister Saunders says that scientists who study Mars consider the release of the Mars Odyssey information to be extremely valuable. He says the information is free to any scientists who can use a computer to link with the Internet communications system. Mars Odyssey information is available on your computer by linking with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The address is WWW.JPL.NASA.GOV. The address again is WWW.JPL.NASA.GOV.
Only five space shuttle flights took place during two-thousand-two. No flights were made between June nineteenth and October seventh.
NASA temporarily suspended the launch of its shuttle spacecraft because of fuel line damage to the main engines of the shuttles Atlantis and Discovery. These are two of the four vehicles that take astronauts into space and to the International Space Station.
James Hartsfield is a spokesman for the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He said NASA’s main concern was the possibility that a piece of metal in the fuel line would separate and move into the engine area. This would damage the engine and cause it to shut down.
The shuttles began flying again after a long investigation and many repairs to the shuttle fuel lines.
The flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in June made news with the return of the fourth crew of the International Space Station. Two of the crew members set a record for Americans in space. American astronauts Carl Walz and Dan Bursch had been members of the Space Station’s crew for one-hundred-ninety-six days.
This record added to Astronaut Walz’s time in space for a total of two-hundred-thirty-one days. That is more than any other American astronaut.
Cosmonaut Valery Korzun, Cosmonaut Sergei Treschev and NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson worked on the International Space Station for one-hundred-eighty-five days. They returned to Earth on December seventh on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. That flight was the one-hundred-twelfth successful shuttle flight into space.
Four of the space shuttle flights last year were launched to take new crew members, scientific experiments, food, supplies and new parts to the International Space Station. These flights greatly expanded the size and power of the Space Station.
The first flight to the Space Station took place in April. The shuttle delivered a thirteen-meter long part called the S-Zero Truss. It now serves to hold together the major parts of the space station. The December flight of the Endeavour carried more than one-thousand-nine-hundred kilograms o equipment to the Space Station.
NASA plans seven shuttle flights this year. Six will go to the International Space Station. These flights will continue to expand and place equipment on the Space Station.
The crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia made the first shuttle flight of the year in March. The seven astronauts completed a ten-day flight to renew and rebuild the Hubble Space Telescope. After the flight, NASA officials said the crew of Columbia had made the Hubble into a much more valuable space science instrument. It is now doing ten times more work than it could before. The space telescope immediately began sending back hundreds of photographs of space objects millions of light years away.
NASA plans one more flight to provide service to the Hubble Space Telescope. That flight is expected to take place in two-thousand-four. NASA plans to use the Hubble until two-thousand-ten. At that time, NASA scientists will decide if the Hubble will return to Earth or be raised to a high orbit where it cannot fall back to Earth.
This Special English program was written and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.
And this is Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.