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Session 3

Find out about the end of an era in space travel, and spot active and passive sentences in the present and the past.

Sessions in this unit

Session 3 score

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    Activity 1
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    Activity 2

Activity 1

NASA's last shuttle flight

The end of an era

In 2011, NASA launched its final space shuttle flight. It was the end of an era for space travel, which means it was the end of an important period of time.

What did NASA's 30-year programme achieve? Listen to Rob and Mike discuss this special period of time for space travel.

While you listen, try to answer these questions:

1. How many people in total have walked on the moon?

2. On which date did NASA launch its final space shuttle flight?

Listen to the audio and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Recording of announcer
Five... four... we've gone for main engine start; we have main engine start...

Rob
A historic moment - that was the countdown to the launch of America's first space shuttle. Hello, I'm Rob.

Mike
And I'm Mike.

Rob
...and that moment, in April 1981, was a new era in space exploration when Space Shuttle Columbia took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Mike
The shuttle service ran for 30 years - until NASA - the American space agency - closed it in 2011. And that's what we're talking about today as well as explaining some related vocabulary. Also, listen out for examples of present and past active and passive sentences.

Rob
In case you didn't know, a space shuttle is a spaceship that's designed to make repeated journeys between earth and space. NASA launched its final shuttle flight on the 8th July 2011. It was the end of an era for space travel.

Mike
Yes, the end of an era - so the end of a significant period of history.

Rob
Now, Russia and America have used rockets for space travel since the1960s. Rockets are tube-shaped devices that use explosions to power them up into the air and into space. But NASA sent its first reusable space shuttles into space back in 1981. The final shuttle mission was its 135th shuttle flight. So, talking of developments in space travel, I've got a question for you to answer Mike. We all know that Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, but how many people in total have walked on the moon so far? Is it:

a)     12

b)     18

c)     24

Mike
I have no idea, a complete guess - c) 24.

Rob
We'll see if you're right at the end of the programme. Let's talk more now about the space shuttle. The first shuttle, Columbia, was launched into orbit over 30 years ago, and it heralded a new era.

Mike
To launch
something means to put it into motion or put it into action. Here, the space shuttle was lifted off the ground and into space. And orbit here means travelling round and round the earth. So NASA launched its first shuttle into orbit more than 30 years ago.

Rob
And to herald something means to announce that something new or important is happening - so at the time, the shuttle heralded a new era for space travel. Let's now hear from the BBC Science Correspondent, Pallab Ghosh who reported on NASA's final shuttle flight.

Mike
While you listen, try to pick up the words that the reporter uses to describe what people thought space travel would be like - and listen to hear how this was different from what actually happened...

BBC NASA report
Announcer
Five... four... we've gone for main engine start; we have main engine start. Lift off of America's first space shuttle!

BBC Reporter, Pallab Ghosh
Thirty years ago the first shuttle was launched into orbit.

Announcer
And the shuttle has cleared the tower.

BBC Reporter, Pallab Ghosh
Columbia was to herald a new era, where space travel was cheap and commonplace. That, of course, didn't happen. Instead, it was expensive and dangerous, resulting in two shuttles being destroyed in flight.

Rob
Pallab Ghosh said that with the launch of Columbia, people believed space travel would be cheap and commonplace, but in fact it was expensive and dangerous.

Mike
Commonplace means usual or everyday. People expected space travel to be a cheap, commonplace activity. But of course it wasn't - and it still isn't!

Rob
No, that's right. Space travel has always been a very expensive business. And dangerous too; two of the shuttles were destroyed in flight. The disasters killed 14 astronauts.

Mike
Astronauts are the people who are trained for space travel. So Rob, what happened to NASA's shuttle programme after it closed?

Rob
Well, nothing really - the programme was too expensive to continue; it cost around US$4 billion a year. Around 10,000 workers were made redundant - they lost their jobs in the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, and around 5,000 more lost their jobs at the Johnson Space Centre in Texas.

Mike
OK, so a lot of people became unemployed with the end of the shuttle programme.

Rob
Yes, that's right.

Mike
But what did this mean for future space travel Rob? Are there still astronauts going into space?

Rob
Well, yes, and NASA hopes that private companies will be able to take astronauts into space, though that probably won't happen for several years. And rockets are still launched into space these days: some of them are manned and some unmanned - meaning there are no people on them. They are controlled by computers back on earth. Right Mike, back to the question I set you earlier. I asked you: how many people in total have walked on the moon so far?

Mike
My guess was 24 people, so was I right?

Rob
I'm afraid you were wrong. In fact only 12 people have walked on the moon. Of course, Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon in 1969 and Eugene Cernan was the last man to set foot on the moon in 1972. So it was only three years, really, that people actually walked on the moon. Does that surprise you?

Mike
Well, not really I guess, there are more interesting places to visit than the moon.

Rob
Really! More interesting than the moon?! Other planets I suppose. OK, Mike. Well, before we go, let's hear some of the words and phrases that we've used in this programme.

Mike
OK, we had:

exploration

space shuttle

the end of an era

rockets

mission

to launch

orbit

to herald

commonplace

astronaut

Rob
Thanks Mike. That's all for now. I hope you've enjoyed learning about the space shuttle and some related vocabulary.

Both
Bye!

Did you manage to answer the questions about space travel? Here are the answers:

  1. 12 people have walked on the moon so far.
  2. NASA launched its final shuttle flight on 8th July 2011.

If you like, you can read more about the space shuttle.

Download

You can download the audio here (size: 15.37MB).

To do

Now let's see if you can answer more questions about the space shuttle. Try this activity.

What did you hear?

7 Questions

Are you a top-flight student? Try this quiz to test your comprehension of the space shuttle programme.

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Next 

We hope you enjoyed your journey into space - and your exploration of this unit's key language. Your next mission is to identify some examples of present and past passives. Prepare for take-off in the next activity!

 

Session Vocabulary

  • exploration
    a journey to search and find out about new things

    space shuttle 
    vehicle which NASA used to make repeated journeys into space

    the end of an era 
    the time when a significant or historic period of time finishes

    rockets
    tube-shaped devices which are powered by huge amounts of explosive gas and which are used to transport people and things into space

    mission
    (here) flight into space

    to launch 
    (here) to shoot something into the sky

    orbit 
    (here) travel around Earth or another planet

    to herald
    to announce that something new or important is happening

    commonplace
    something that happens or that people see regularly

    astronaut
    someone who travels to space