Broadcast: January 29, 2003
This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program
EXPLORATIONS. Today we tell about a space rock that has the
same orbit around the sun as Earth. We tell about three new
moons discovered near the planet Neptune. We tell about the
launch of two new satellites. And we tell about the current
flight of the space shuttle Columbia.
(Photo - NASA)
The space shuttle Columbia was launched from the Kennedy Space
Center in Florida on January sixteenth. The seven crew members
include the first astronaut from Israel. Columbia is expected
to return to the Kennedy Space Center on February first after
sixteen days in space.
Columbia took into orbit eighty science experiments. These
include a study of Earth and space science and advanced technology
development. Other experiments deal with cancer cell research
and astronaut health and safety.
One experiment includes two special cameras built in Israel.
They are being used to measure the amount of dust in the desert
and in the atmosphere over the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic
Ocean. University scientists in Tel Aviv were interested in
learning how clouds of dust affect weather.
Columbia¡¯s crew formed two teams because of the
large number of experiments. This permitted work to be performed
twenty-four hours each day while the Columbia is in space. Most
of the experiments were carried into orbit in the SPACEHAB research
module. This large, round vehicle fits inside the Columbia¡¯s
The SPACEHAB was designed as a very modern scientific vehicle.
It is two times the size of former scientific study areas carried
by the space shuttles.
This new size permits four members of Columbia¡¯s
crew to work in the SPACEHAB at the same time. It also permits
the shuttle crews to carry larger and more difficult scientific
experiments into space. The SPACEHAB vehicle also has new and
improved life support systems. These include temperature controls
and better control of the environment inside the shuttle.
The new SPACEHAB also carries new high-speed communications
equipment. This permits scientists on Earth to better control
and observe the experiments. NASA says the new SPACEHAB laboratory
means that new and exciting experiments can be done in space.
Thousands of young students from six countries are closely
watching the experiments on Columbia. The students are part
of the Space Technology and Research Students program, called
This program permits experiments designed by students to be
taken into space on shuttle flights. Students worked for the
past two years developing the experiments that were carried
These experiments were designed by students from the United
States, Japan, China, Australia, Israel and Liechtenstein. Each
of the students¡¯ experiments needs to be done in
space where there is a lack of gravity.
For example, students in Japan believe that a small fish called
the Medaka will develop faster in an environment with no gravity.
They think this is true because the small fish would have to
expend less energy to swim while in space.
Students from Australia called their experiment ¡°Astrospiders
in Space.¡± They want to learn if a spider would
build a different kind of web in space than it would on Earth.
They want to learn if the shape and material of the web would
be different because of a lack of gravity.
Chinese students designed an experiment that tests the idea
that young silkworms, or larvae, would develop differently in
an environment with no gravity. Students from the United States
designed an experiment to see if ants would create tunnels more
slowly in space than on Earth. Students from Israel studied
the growth and structure of crystal fibers developed within
a chemical. They want to see if the fibers would grow differently
with a lack of gravity.
And, students from Liechtenstein designed an experiment with
carpenter bees. They want to learn if a lack of gravity would
cause eating, working and social changes among the bees. Liechtenstein¡¯s
government has been so excited about the experiment that they
issued a special postage stamp to honor their students.
Results of the experiments are not expected until the students
study the information collected in space.
NASA successfully placed two new satellites in orbit around
the Earth on January twelfth. One is called the Ice, Cloud and
Land Elevation satellite, or ICESat. The other is the Cosmic
Hot Interstellar Spectrometer, called CHIPS. Both satellites
were launched on the same rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base
A NASA spokesman said the ICESat satellite will be carefully
moved to a height of six-hundred kilometers above the Earth
to its final orbital position. The ICESat satellite is the newest
in a series of satellites used to observe the Earth. ICESat
will observe the increase or decrease in large areas of ice
around the world. It will provide information about Earth¡¯s
climate system. It will also observe climate change and changes
in sea level.
The CHIPS satellite will study the gas and dust in space. Scientists
believe this gas and dust are the building materials that make
up stars and planets. The CHIPS satellite weighs only sixty-kilograms.
It is about the size of a large suitcase. It will orbit above
Earth at about five-hundred-ninety kilometers and is expected
to work for about one year.
One of the new moons.
(Image - Matt Holman, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
Space scientists have discovered three new moons that orbit
the planet Neptune, the eighth planet from the sun in our solar
system. There are now eleven known moons around Neptune.
The discovery was announced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center
for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The team of astronomers
was led by scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center and
the National Research Council of Canada.
Each moon is about thirty or forty kilometers around. Scientists
found the moons by using two telescopes, one in Chile and one
in the American state of Hawaii.
Another moon-like object is also in the news. NASA scientists
say the first space rock discovered to orbit the sun in almost
the same orbit as Earth came close to Earth this month. The
space rock, or asteroid, was discovered about one year ago.
It is called Asteroid Two-Thousand-Two A-A-Two-Nine. The asteroid
is only about sixty meters across. It never comes closer to
our planet than five-point-eight million kilometers.
However the asteroid is extremely unusual. It comes near Earth
on one side and then escapes to travel along our planet¡¯s
orbit around the sun. It then approaches Earth from the other
side and then it goes back again. It takes almost one-hundred
years to make this trip.
Paul Chodas is a space scientist with NASA¡¯s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Mister Chodas
discovered the asteroid¡¯s unusual orbit. He says
the Earth moves near the asteroid, and their combined gravity
forces the asteroid to speed up and move away.
In ninety-five years, the asteroid will have traveled all the
way around the orbit until it nears the Earth from behind. A
similar reaction with gravity from both the Earth and sun will
then push the asteroid back into a slower obit and the action
will be repeated. Don Yeomans is the manager of NASA¡¯s
Near Earth Objects program. He says there is no danger of a
crash between the Earth and the asteroid. He says the asteroid
and Earth take turns moving toward each other, but they never
get too close.
And this space news story: President Bush has awarded the Congressional
Space Medal of Honor to American astronaut William Shepherd.
Mister Shepherd was the first astronaut to command a crew on
the International Space Station.
As the commander of Expedition One, Mister Shepherd and the
two other members of his crew spent one-hundred-forty-one days
This Special English program was written and produced by Paul
Thompson. This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week another EXPLORATIONS
program on the Voice of America.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com