China Space Probe Lands on Dark Side of the Moon

China has become the first country to successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e-4 probe has also made the first lunar landing since 1972. It has the task of exploring the side of the moon that never faces earth.

The Chinese probe landed in a huge crater 2500 km in diameter and 13 km deep. The crater is one of the oldest parts of the moon and our solar system.

Scientists hope to learn more about the geology of the far side of the moon. The craft has two cameras on board which will send images back to earth. It will also attempt to send signals to distant regions of space, something that cannot happen on earth because of too much radio noise.

Chang’e-4 also has instruments on board to examine minerals as well as a container with seeds which will try to create a miniature biosphere.

Communication with the spacecraft is not easy. Images and other data must be transmitted to a separate satellite because no direct communication with the earth is possible.

For China the Chang’e-4 mission is an important achievement, because the country has successfully done something no other nation on earth has. It wants to become a leading power in space exploration and has announced plans to send astronauts to the moon and set up its own space station.

The dark side of the moon is older and has a thicker crust than the visible side. It takes the moon as long to rotate on its own axis as it does for one complete orbit around the Earth.


Chang’e-4 landing craft and the vehicle that can move around the surface of the moon
Image: Loren Roberts for The Planetary Society

Words

  • achievement = something important that you have done
  • announce = to make public; to say officially
  • attempt = try
  • axis = imaginary line around which an object turns
  • biosphere = area in which plants and animals can live
  • crater = round hole in the ground made by a huge rock that crashed into it
  • crust = hard top part of a planet
  • data = information
  • distant = faraway
  • explore = to go to unknown places and find out more about them
  • face = look towards
  • far side = the side of the moon which we never see
  • geology = study of the rocks that make up the moon
  • image = picture
  • lunar = about the moon
  • mineral = material that is formed naturally and can be dug out of the ground
  • miniature = very small
  • probe = unmanned spacecraft
  • radio noise = unwanted electric signals
  • rotate = move around a central point
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seed = small hard objects produced by plants from which a new plant is formed
  • solar system= our sun and the planets that move around it
  • space exploration = to send spacecraft into other regions of space in order to find out more about them
  • space station = large spacecraft that stays above the earth and is the basis for people travelling in space or for tests and experiments
  • spacecraft = object that can travel into space
  • task = job; mission
  • transmit = send
  • visible = something that can be seen

The World’s First Solar-powered Airport

The international airport at Kochi in southern India is the first airport in the world to rely solely on solar energy. Last year it won a top environmental award sponsored by the United Nations .

Five years ago airport authorities started looking for new ways to save energy . At first, they put solar panels on the top of one of the passenger terminals. The initial costs were huge, but as time went on solar panels became cheaper. The airport is expected to get back its invested money within the next six years.

Today, over 40,000 solar panels, placed on wide areas of unused land, produce enough energy not only for the airport but for large parts of the city itself. Currently, more than 29 megawatts are produced and output will rise to 40 megawatts, enough to meet the rising energy demands of the city. In addition, the solar panels absorb as much carbon as the planting of 3 million trees

Kochi’s solar-powered airport is only one of India’s projects to increase the use of solar energy and reduce carbon emissions. By 2022 India is expected to increase its solar capacity to 100,000 megawatts.

The project has received attention from several environmental organisations. Especially African countries are considering moving more of their energy production towards solar power.

Solar panels at Cochin Airport in southern India – Image :
Sreejithk2000

Words

  • absorb = here: to take in; to prevent from escaping into the atmosphere
  • attention = to get interested
  • authorities = people or organisations that control or are in charge of an area
  • award = prize
  • carbon = chemical element; it is in a gas that causes global warming
  • carbon emissions = gases that are sent into the air and lead to global warming
  • consider = think about something
  • currently = now, at the moment
  • demands = here: what the city needs every day
  • environmental = about nature and the world around us
  • especially = above all
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to go up
  • initial = at first, beginning
  • invested money = the money that you spend on a project when it starts
  • output = here: energy production
  • passenger terminal = big building where people wait to get on planes
  • place = put something somewhere
  • reduce =go down
  • rely = depend on something
  • rise = go up
  • several = a few, some
  • solar capacity = here: the amount of energy that the country could produce
  • solar energy = energy from the sun
  • solar panel = piece of metal, usually on the roof of a house, which uses the sun’s heat and light to produce electricity
  • solely = only
  • unused = not used

Voyager 2 Becomes Second Object to Leave Solar System

Voyager 2 has become the second man-made object to pass the boundary of the solar system and enter interstellar space. It is currently 18 billion km from earth. Its sister ship, Voyager  1 reached this boundary in 2012.

According to NASA scientists, the probe can operate for five to ten more years. It is so far away from earth that commands take about 16 hours to reach it.

Voyager 2 has entered the heliopause, an area where hot solar winds do not exist any more and the sun’s magnetic field ends. Interstellar space is the vast emptiness between star systems.

The spacecraft is better equipped than its predecessor, Voyager 1. It has instruments on board to measure speed , density and temperature of solar winds. Voyager 1 stopped sending back this data decades ago. Voyager 2 also sends other useful information back to scientists on earth.

The Voyager missions, which were launched in the 1970s have become a great success for NASA. Both craft have traveled beyond their projected destinations. The two spacecraft were originally created to study Jupiter and Saturn more closely. Later, it turned out that Uranus and Neptune could also be examined before the probes left the solar system.

Even though their power sources will eventually stop, the Voyager probes will continue to move on to places no man-made object have gone before.

Voyager 2
Voyager 2

Words

  • according to = as said by ..
  • beyond = farther than
  • boundary = a line where one are ends and another one starts
  • command = instruction
  • craft = spaceship
  • currently = at the moment
  • data = information
  • decade = ten years
  • density = the relationship between how big something is and how it is filled
  • equipped = here: it has instruments on board
  • emptiness = with nothing in it
  • even though = while
  • eventually = in the end, finally
  • examine = to look closely at something and find out more information about it
  • interstellar space = the area between star systems
  • launch = send into space
  • magnetic field = the area around an object that has magnetic power
  • measure = to find out how high, fast etc.. something is
  • man-made object = something that is made by people , not by nature
  • NASA = the American space agency
  • originally = at first
  • power source = where the energy to move on comes from
  • predecessor = here: the spacecraft that was launched before it
  • probe = unmanned spaceship that has instruments on board
  • projected destination = the place they were originally planned to go to
  • reach = get to; arrive at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar = from the sun
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that move around it
  • vast = extremely big

Porsche To Stop Production of Diesel Cars

German sports car maker Porsche has declared that it would no longer produce diesel cars, but instead concentrate on petrol-powered , electric and hybrid vehicles. It is the first German automaker to completely withdraw from the diesel car sector.

The company made the decision in the aftermath of the emission cheating scandal that hit Porsche’s parent company Volkswagen . In an interview, Porsche’s CEO Oliver Blume said that Porsche’s image had suffered due to the  scandal.

For luxury car manufacturer Porsche, the production of diesel cars has not been that important. In 2017 only 12 % of all Porsche cars produced were diesel-powered. The company has been making diesel cars for 10 years, but since February has stopped taking orders for them. It has never developed or produced any diesel engines of its own.

Porsche is also reacting to the fact that more and more European cities are considering a ban on diesel vehicles in an attempt to reduce air pollution. In addition, the demand for diesel cars is also decreasing.

Currently, the German car maker is investing heavily in new hybrid and electric car technology.  Next year it  will launch its first fully-electric sports car,  the TaycanBy 2025  Porsche expects that every second car it produces will be an an electric sports car.

 

Porsche Taycan
Taycan – Porsche’s first fully electric sports car – Image: Alexander Migl

Words

  • aftermath = the period of time that has passed after something important happened
  • attempt = try
  • ban = to forbid something
  • concentrate = focus on
  • consider = think about
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • decrease = go down
  • demand = the number of cars that people want to buy
  • due to = because of
  • emission cheating scandal = in 2015 the United States found out that Volkswagen had lied about emission tests on its cars
  • declare = to say officially
  • heavily = a lot
  • hybrid = here: car that has a petrol engine and an electric motor
  • in addition = also
  • launch = to start selling
  • petrol-powered = engine that runs on petrol instead of diesel
  • reduce = lower ; make something go down
  • suffer= here: to be in a difficult situation
  • vehicle = car
  • withdraw = here: to stop production

 

 

 

Apple Worth 1 Trillion Dollars

Apple has become  the first US company to reach a market value of 1 trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) . The hi-tech firm has beaten  its rivals Microsoft, Google  and Amazon to pass the magical mark. Apple’s stock is now worth $207 per share, an all-time high. If it were a country, Apple would rank 17th in the world, on par with Indonesia.

Before Apple, only China’s oil giant PetroChina made it over the 1 trillion dollar  mark  back in 2007.  It’s value declined sharply shortly afterwards when oil prices collapsed.

Apple was founded in 1976 in a California garage by Steve Jobs. In the first two decades the company was famous for producing computers. Later on Apple developed its revolutionary MP3 player, the iPod, which also saved the company from bankruptcy 20 years ago.

The iPhone, the world’s first smartphone, was introduced in 2007 and has become the company’s flagship product. Up to now over 1.3 billion iPhones have been sold. Although Apple is currently selling fewer new models, sales and profits are rising. It is also making money by selling music and apps.

In 2017, Apple  has made profits in the range of $50 billion, selling over $220 billion worth of products .

Apple may soon be joined in the 1 trillion dollar club by other hi-tech giants . Amazon and Microsoft are close to the mark and may be passing it soon.

 

Apple headquarters in Cupertino , California
Apple headquarters in Cupertino , California – Image: Daniel L. Lu

Words

  • all-time high = the highest point ever reached
  • although = while
  • bankruptcy = situation in which you have no money left and cannot pay back what you owe to others
  • collapse = here: to go down very quickly
  • close = near
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = to go down very fast
  • develop = to design and produce a new product
  • flagship = the best and most important product
  • found- founded = here: to start a new company
  • introduce = here: to bring to the market
  • join = to be together with others
  • market value = what a company is worth on the market
  • on par = on the same level
  • profit = the money you get by selling products and services after  your costs have been paid
  • rank = position
  • reach = get to a certain point
  • revolutionary = something completely new and different
  • rival = another company that wants to be more successful than you are
  • share = a part of a company that belongs to you
  • stock = the total value of all the company’s shares
  • value = what something is worth

MH370 – A Plane That Went Missing 4 Years Ago

One of the greatest mysteries of aviation history happened on March 8, 2014. Four years ago Malaysia Airlines MH370 went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The plane left its programmed flight path and headed south towards the Indian Ocean. During the last four years, several search teams have tried to locate the missing plane, but up to now, it hasn’t been found.

The Malaysian Boeing 777 with 239 passengers on board disappeared from ground station radar screens but flew on for another six hours.  Nobody knows what happened during this time. The last known location of MH370 was somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean near Australia. A few parts of the plane were washed up on Africa’s east coast and on islands in the Indian Ocean

Australia, China and Malaysia have taken part in hi-tech search operations that covered a total area of 120,000 square kilometres and cost  $200 million. Now, another search is being conducted by an American firm.

Investigators speculate on what may have happened on board MH370. Some experts state that there may have been some kind of mechanical failure while others consider a sudden loss of oxygen in the cabin and cockpit. Officials do not rule out the possibility of the pilot crashing the plane deliberately in unknown waters.

Aviation inspectors say that it is important to find out what happened to MH 370 in order to prevent such an accident from happening again.

 

Search operation for MH370
Search operation for MH370 – Image: US Navy

Words

  • aviation = the science of flying an airplane
  • conduct = carry out
  • consider = think about
  • cover = stretch = reach from one place to another
  • deliberately = on purpose; if you really want to do something
  • disappear = here: to be lost; not seen
  • firm = company
  • flight path = the course an airplane takes
  • ground station = here: building that watches and has contact with planes
  • head = to go in a certain direction
  • inspector = person who checks to see if something is done the way it should be
  • investigator = person who has the job of finding out what caused the accident
  • hi-tech = with the best and most modern technology
  • locate = to find out where something is
  • loss = to lose something
  • mechanical failure = an object or a machine on board the plane did not work the way it should have
  • official = person in a high position in an organisation
  • oxygen = element that is in the air and which we need to breathe
  • possibility = here: something may have happened
  • prevent = stop from happening again
  • programmed = here: the course it should have taken, according to flight computers
  • radar = machine that uses radio waves to find where something is and watch its movements
  • several = some
  • speculate = to guess about the possible causes or effects of something without knowing all the facts and details
  • sudden = something happening quickly
  • unknown = not known
  • wash up = when something drifts from the open sea to the coast

Scientists Come One Step Further in Creating Quantum Computers

The world of technology has got one step closer to creating quantum computers.  Dutch scientists have recently created a 2-qubit (quantum bitprocessor running on a silicon chip.

While standard computers work with bits of information that can have only two states, 0 or 1, quantum processors are based on the fact that bits can exist in both states at the same time. As a result, they have tremendous computing power and can do things that no classical computer can do. Quantum computers can be used for solving complex problems and can manage much larger number of calculations at once.

Scientists explain that they are still in the early stages of developing a real quantum processor. Hardware manufacturer IBM has already built a 50-qubit computer, but with superconductive materials that need extreme cooling. Putting a quantum processor on a silicon chip, which is already used in the computer industry, may be the first step toward mass production.

In such quantum processors, electrons can be in many states at once. This is called superposition. In the lab, scientists have managed to keep electrons between both positions at the same time, however, such electrons are not stable and quickly fall apart. By linking these electrons together on a silicon chip qubit hardware manufacturers could produce quantum processors for commercial use.

Design of a quantum computer chip
Design of a quantum computer chip – Image: D-Wave Systems, Inc.

 Words

  • bit = the smallest unit of information that a computer uses
  • calculation = when you use numbers to find out something
  • classical = here: normal; the ones we have today
  • commercial use = here: something that is produced so that people buy it
  • complex = very complicated
  • electron = very small piece of matter with a negative electrical charge that moves around the central part of an atom
  • hardware manufacturer = company that producers computers
  • however = but
  • lab = laboratory
  • link = connect with each other
  • manage = work with; succeed in doing something
  • mass production = products that are produced in factories in large numbers so they can be sold cheaply
  • processor = central part of a computer that deals with commands and the information it is given
  • quantum = unit of energy in physics
  • qubit= quantum bit = piece of information that can exist in two states at the same time
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • silicon chip = small piece of silicon  that has electrical connections and can store information
  • stable = steady; something that does not change
  • stage = phase, time during which something happens
  • superconductive = when electricity can flow through a material very easily, especially at low temperatures
  • state = condition that something is in
  • tremendous = very big, fast, powerful

SpaceX Launches World’s Most Powerful Rocket

SpaceX, a private space transport company owned by American billionaire Elon Musk, has launched the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy. It is the larger version of the Falcon 9 rocket, which has successfully been putting payloads into space for years. The booster is made up of three rockets strapped together for combined thrust.

The Falcon Heavy was developed over a period of 7 years and cost about $500 million. It is 23 stories tall and has 27 engines. The rocket’s thrust equals that of 18 Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

The new rocket is designed to send large satellites into earth orbit. It can carry 64 metric tons, twice the payload of other rockets, into space at a lower price. The rocket can also transport spacecraft to destinations further away from earth. In addition, its starting boosters are reusable.

The first flight was set to travel as far as the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The rocket had an electric sports car, Elon Musk’s privateTesla Roadster, on board.

SpaceX has been flying NASA cargo missions to the International Space Station for a few years. The company wants to compete with other business in carrying payloads to space. Musk’s company has several commercial customers and has been receiving contracts to fly government payloads. The first manned mission to space is planned for the end of 2018.

 

Space X rocket Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida

Words

  • asteroid belt = large rocks that move around the sun between Mars and Jupiter
  • billionaire = person who has a billion dollars, euros etc.. or more
  • booster = a rocket that gives you the power to leave the earth
  • cargo mission = here: a trip that carries goods and other products into space
  • commercial = here: private
  • compete = be as good as or better than others
  • contract = an agreement to do a job for someone
  • design = the way something should work
  • destination = place you want to go to
  • develop = to design and create a new product
  • equal = the same as
  • in addition = also
  • International Space Station = ISS = space station that was built by scientists from 16 countries; it is mainly used for scientific experiments
  • launch = to send an object into space
  • manned mission = here: trip that sends people into space
  • orbit = move around an object in a circle
  • payload = the goods or products that a machine transports to a place
  • receive = get
  • reusable = you can use it again
  • several = some, a few
  • stories = floors
  • strapped together = bind together so that it works as one
  • successfully = if something works the way it should
  • thrust = power of an engine that makes a rocket move upwards
  • twice = two times

Amazon Go – The First Automated Store

Amazon has opened its first automated store to the public. Amazon Go is a grocery store located on the ground level of the corporation’s Seattle headquarters.

The store, which offers food, salads and boxed meals could revolutionize our shopping experience in the future.

As soon as you arrive at the store, a cell phone app connected to an Amazon account registers your presenceEverything that happens in the store is tracked by hundreds of infrared cameras. When you pick up items from the shelves they are automatically put into your virtual shopping cart. The cameras also detect when you put an item back on the shelves and remove it from your cart. The moment you walk out your account is charged without making any physical payment.

The technologies used at Amazon Go are the same as with driverless cars –  computer tracking, weight sensors on shelves and complicated algorithms.

The 1,800 square foot store has been open to Amazon employees for a year. Now the public can also shop there.

However, not everything has been running smoothly in the store’s opening year.There were hardships to overcomeFor example, it’s hard for cameras to distinguish between different flavours or products that look the same. They also have problems handling people who move around or identifying shoppers with similar body sizes and clothes.

Even though there are no checkout counters and cashiers who make you wait in line, there are shop assistants who restock goods and help customers find their way around.

 

Amazon Go store in Seattle
Amazon Go store in Seattle – Image: SounderBruce

Words

  • account = here: the  services of a company that you use
  • algorithm = set of instructions that are followed in a fixed order and used  for solving problems
  • automated = using computers, cameras and machines
  • boxed meal = meal that has already been cooked and is ready to eat
  • cashier = person who you pay money to in a shop
  • charge = you have to pay money for the goods you buy
  • checkout counter = place where you pay for products when you leave a store
  • complicated = difficult
  • connect = link
  • corporation = big company
  • detect = discover, notice
  • distinguish = find the difference between two things
  • driverless = without a driver
  • employee = a person who works there
  • even though = although, while
  • flavour = the taste of something
  • hardships = problems, difficulties
  • headquarters = place from where a company operates
  • however = but
  • identify = find out the name of someone
  • infrared = light that gives out heat but cannot be seen
  • item = product
  • located = to be found; situated
  • overcome = solve
  • physical payment = real money you pay with in a store
  • presence = someone is present
  • public = here: everybody
  • register = record
  • restock = bring in more items to replace those that have been bought
  • revolutionize = to change completely the way you do something
  • shopping experience = the way we shop
  • similar = almost the same
  • smoothly = here: the way it should; without any problems
  • track = watch closely
  • virtual = not real; here: your Amazon account
  • weight sensor = small object that finds out if there is something on the shelf or not

Ford To Invest $11 Billion in Electric Cars

The Ford Motor Company has revealed plans to invest over $11 billion dollars in the development and production of electric cars by 2022. The announcement was made public at the Detroit Motor Show.

The American carmaker plans to produce 16 fully battery-driven vehicles and 24 hybrid cars by 2022. At the moment the Focus is the only Ford car that can be driven by batteries alone.

Apart from producing electric-driven cars for the North American market, Ford also aims at increasing sales to China, the largest growing car market in the world. In addition, it wants to become the world’s leader in fuel-efficient trucks. The car producer also plans to bring a battery-driven SUV on the market by 2020.

Instead of creating completely new electric vehicles from scratch, Ford wants to electrify cars that are already popular because people will know what they get and buy more easily.

Automobile manufacturers around the world are under pressure to develop electric cars because many large countries, including China, India, France and the U.K. have said they would phase out vehicles powered by internal combustion engines within the next two decades. They also face fierce competition from companies like Tesla, a car-maker that specialises in innovative technologies.

As battery costs are going down rapidly, carmakers may find it easier to produce electric cars with higher mileage and at cheaper prices.

 

The electric version of the Ford Focus at an Amsterdam automobile show
The electric version of the Ford Focus at an Amsterdam automobile show – Image: Overlaet

Words

  • aim = target , plan
  • announcement = official statement
  • apart from = other than
  • battery-driven = run by a battery
  • billion = a thousand million
  • competition = trying to be more successful than other companies
  • decade = ten years
  • development = working on a new product
  • electrify = make electric
  • fierce = here: strong
  • from scratch = to start something from the beginning without using anything that has existed before
  • fuel-efficient = car that burns fuel in a more effective way than usual; it does not need as much fuel as others do
  • fully = completely
  • higher mileage = here: to make an electric car that can travel more miles or kilometres before you have to recharge it
  • hybrid car = a car that has both a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor
  • in addition = also
  • innovative = new way of doing something; often better than existing methods
  • instead of = in something’s place
  • internal combustion engine = engine that produces power by burning petrol or diesel; it is used in most cars
  • invest = spend money on …
  • make public = to say something for everyone to hear
  • manufacturer = producer
  • phase out = to slowly stop using or producing something
  • popular = well-known and liked by many people
  • production = here: making cars
  • rapidly = quickly
  • reveal = announce to many people
  • sales = selling cars
  • SUV = sport-utility vehicle = car that is bigger and is made for travelling over rough ground; mostly with a 4-wheel drive
  • under pressure = to make someone do something  by using arguments and threats
  • vehicle = a machine with a motor that is used to take people or things from one place to another