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Words in the News
Wednesday 03 July 2002
Vocabulary from the news. Listen to and read the report then find explanations of difficult words below.

  Contour probe
Contour space mission
Summary: NASA has launched its Contour spacecraft, one of a series of missions designed to investigate comets. Scientists hope Contour will visit at least two comets, providing the first detailed look at the differences between these primitive building blocks of the Solar System. This report from Ania Lichtarowicz.
   
The News Listen  
  Contour is NASA's second mission dedicated to studying comets. The spacecraft Stardust is already on its way to bring a sample of a comet back to Earth; and next year NASA hope to launch their Deep Impact Mission, which they say may help answer questions about how life may have begun on Earth. Some scientists believe that comets hold the most primitive materials in the solar system and that they played a role in shaping some of the planets, as well as possibly seeding life on Earth.

Instruments on board include the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer which will analyse the chemical composition of the comet nucleus - the icy core in the head of the comet.

Contour will travel closer to the nucleus than any spacecraft ever has before - at only a hundred metres away it'll be exposed to high speed debris, but NASA scientists hope that a five-layer dust shield made of heavy metallic fabric will protect the craft.

Its main camera, the Contour Remote Imager-Spectrograph, will provide high-resolution images showing rocks and other features on the nucleus as small as 4 metres across.

However scientists will have to wait a while before they get any comet data back - Contour is due to rendezvous with comets Encke in 2003 and Schwassmann-Wachmann-3 in 2006.

 
   
The Words Listen
 
  comets
a comet is an object that travels around the sun leaving a bright trail

 
   
  sample
a small quantity of a substance that shows you what it's like

 
   
  primitive
extremely old, and not developed

 
   
  seeding life
causing life to start

 
   
  analyse the chemical composition
examine what chemicals are included

 
   
  nucleus
the central part of the comet

 
   
  high speed debris
pieces of things that have been destroyed travelling very fast

 
   
  high-resolution images
very good quality pictures

 
   
  comet data
scientific information about the comet

 
   
  Read more about this story  
 

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