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
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
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
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
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.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com