EXPLORATIONS -January 2, 2001: Space in 2001
By Paul Thompson
This is Bob Doughty.
And this is Doug Johnson with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we tell about some
of the important space news of the past year. We begin with the first permanent human home in space.
Last year was the first full year that humans lived in a permanent place in space. On November First, Two-
Thousand, an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts took their places as the first crew of the
International Space Station. The commander of the first crew was American Bill Shepherd. The other members
were Russian Cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev.
The three were launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodome in
Now, the fourth crew of the International Space Station is in orbit. They arrived at the
International Space Station December Seventh on the American Space Shuttle Endeavour. The
crew commander is Russian Cosmonaut Yury Onufrienko. American Astronauts Daniel
Bursch and Carl Walz are the flight engineers.
During the past year, the four crews of the International Space Station have been a mix of American astronauts
and Russian cosmonauts. One American woman, Susan Helms, was a member of the second crew to live in the
NASA says future crews of the space station will be a mix of astronauts from the United States, Russia, the
European Space Agency and Japan.
The International Space Station is a cooperative effort by sixteen nations. When it is completed it will provide
more room for space research than any spacecraft ever built.
In the past year, the space station ’s ability to perform useful work has been greatly expanded. During Two-
Thousand -One, six space shuttle flights arrived at the International Space Station. The Russian Soyuz rocket also
flew to the space station.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis carried the huge United States science laboratory named “Destiny”
that will be
used for experiments in space.
Since the International Space Station was first placed in orbit, seventy -nine people have visited or worked there
as crew members. These men and women have built the space station into a one-hundred-fifty ton powerful
In the past year, the International Space Station has become an extremely important research center. Experiments
are being done there that could not be repeated on Earth. This is because of the extreme lack of gravity in space.
Future research plans include experiments in biology, chemistry, physics, ecology and medicine.
The International Space Station is one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Sunlight shines off huge structures
that look like wings. They were added to the space station to gather energy from the Sun. They are the largest and
heaviest structures to be carried into space. The sun shines on these wing-like devices making it very easy for
people on Earth to see where people are living in space.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft successfully entered an orbit
around the planet Mars in October. It left Earth on April Seventh, Two-Thousand -One. It flew four-hundred-sixty
million kilometers to reach Mars. NASA officials said it reached its planned orbit with no problems.
In November, the American space agency received the first pictures of Mars taken by the Odyssey. The pictures
were taken from about twenty-two thousand kilometers above the South Pole of the planet. They showed areas of
carbon dioxide ice at the southern end of Mars.
Beginning in February, Odyssey will start a two and one-half year science project.
The Odyssey spacecraft has several important tasks.
Odyssey does not carry instruments that can search for life on Mars. Yet, the
spacecraft’s instruments can search for information that will help researchers
understand if the environment of Mars can support life now. Or it will help them
discover if Mars ever could have supported life.
Evidence of water is extremely important for deciding if life could exist on Mars. Mars is too cold to permit
liquid water to remain on the surface. Yet, researchers say water on Mars may be trapped under the surface. It
may be ice, or possibly a liquid.
Instruments on Odyssey will let scientists measure any amount of permanent ice and how it changes with the
seasons. Odyssey’s instruments will also let NASA scientists search Mars for chemical elements. These
elements include carbon, silicon, and iron.
Odyssey will seek evidence of radiation on Mars. It will look for possible areas that may be dangerous to future
astronaut crews. This information will help NASA know how to plan for a visit to Mars by human explorers.
The Hubble Space Telescope continues to be an extremely valuable tool for learning about space. In the past year
it continued to send back to Earth pictures and other information from the far areas of the universe.
One of Hubble’s most interesting tasks this year was making the first direct examinations and chemical tests of
the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. The lead researcher for the project is David Charbonneau of
the California Institute of Technology and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Mister Charbonneau says his team used the Hubble Space Telescope to find sodium in the planet’s atmosphere.
He says the research team found much less sodium in the atmosphere than expected. The work done by Hubble
shows that it is possible for the space telescope and other telescopes to measure the chemicals in a planet’
The planet that the space telescope examined is about two-hundred-twenty times the size of Earth. It orbits a
yellow Sun-like star called H-D two-zero-nine-four-five -eight. The star is about one-hundred-fifty light years
away in the constellation Pegasus. NASA says almost anyone can find the star by using a small telescope.
NASA scientists also heard from an old friend last year. In May, NASA scientists
sent and received radio messages from the Pioneer Ten Spacecraft. Pioneer Ten was
launched more than twenty-nine years ago on March Second, Nineteen-Seventy-
Two. It is now more than eleven-thousand-million kilometers from Earth.
Pioneer Ten was the first spacecraft to pass through a huge area of space rocks
called the asteroid belt. It was also the first to take close pictures of the planet Jupiter. In Nineteen-Eighty -Three,
Pioneer Ten became the first human-made object to leave our solar system. It did this when it passed beyond the
orbit of the planet Pluto.
Larry Lasher is the Pioneer Ten Project Manager for NASA ’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field,
Mister Lasher said NASA engineers decided the only way to get a signal from the spacecraft was to send a
message and wait for an answer. He said Pioneer received the message and answered with a very weak signal.
Radio messages to the spacecraft were sent from a special radio telescope in Madrid, Spain. Pioneer Ten is so far
away that radio signals traveling at the speed of light still took almost twenty-four hours to reach the spacecraft
NASA scientists who built Pioneer Ten knew it would pass out of our solar system and into the far reaches of
space. They placed pictures of a man and a woman on the spacecraft. They also placed information about Earth
and recordings of human voices and the sounds of animals.
Pioneer Ten is traveling toward the star group Taurus, at almost forty -five thousand kilometers an hour. It will
pass the nearest star in the constellation in about two-million years.
This Special English program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer
was Dwayne Collins. This is Doug Johnson.
And this is Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of
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