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 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.
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.