SpaceX Lands First Successful Starship Flight

SpaceX, a private American space company, has successfully launched and landed its Starship spacecraft from a launch site in Texas. In the three previous attempts the rocket exploded during the landing phase.

The 50-metre tall reusable rocket rose to an altitude of almost 10 km over the Gulf of Mexico, then turned and descended in an upright position back to its launch pad. A small fire after touchdown was quickly put out.

The Starship rocket has three engines and can carry 100 tons of cargo into space. It is scheduled to bring NASA astronauts to the moon in the next few years. The rocket is also part of a more powerful system that will one day bring astronauts to Mars.

The successful mission came on the 60th anniversary of the first American, Alan Shepard, to travel into space.

SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk, an American entrepreneur, who plans to set up an American colony on Mars.

Artist’s drawing of Starship to bring astronauts to the moon
Steve Jurvetson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Words

  • altitude = how high something goes up
  • anniversary = date on which something important happened years ago
  • attempts = to try to make something work
  • cargo = machines, instruments and other objects
  • descend = to come down
  • entrepreneur = businessman
  • successfully = if something works the way it should
  • launch = here: to send a rocket into space
  • launch pad = place from where a rocket is sent into space
  • launch site = place from where a rocket is sent into space
  • mission = here: flight
  • owned = belongs to
  • previous = earlier
  • reusable = something that you can use over and over again
  • schedule = plan
  • set up = create
  • upright position = vertical; standing up

China Launches First Module of Space Station

China has successfully launched the first module of its space station, called Tianhe or Heavenly Harmony, from the island of Hainan. The module contains the living quarters for crew members.

After 10 missions to deliver parts to low Earth orbit, China’s space station is expected to be fully operational by 2022. It will be used for scientific and medical experiments. 12 astronauts are currently training to live in space for a longer period of time.

China’s space station will not be as large as the International Space Station ISS, but similar to the Russian Mir space station which was in operation between 1986 and 2001.

The construction of its own space station is seen as a further step in China’s ambitious billion-dollar space program. The first satellite was launched in 1970 and the first manned mission was carried out in 2003. Recently a lunar probe has brought back the first samples from the moon since the 1970s.

Illustration of the Chinese Space Station and its modules
Saggittarius A, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Words

  • ambitious = if you really want to be successful in doing something
  • currently = at the moment
  • deliver = bring
  • further = another
  • launch = here: to start a rocket into space
  • living quarters = rooms where the astronauts live
  • lunar probe= unmanned spaceship that landed on the moon
  • manned mission = space flight where people are on board
  • module = part
  • operational = working and ready to be used
  • orbit = to move around a planet
  • recently = a short time ago
  • samples = here : rocks from the moon
  • satellite = object that is sent to space and moves around the Earth, moon or other planet
  • similar = like

NASA Announces First Successful Flight On Mars

The first controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet has successfully taken place. The Mars drone Ingenuity lifted off and hovered about 1 meter above the Martian surface for 40 seconds. Because of the distance between the Earth and Mars flight controllers had to wait for three hours to find out if the experiment was successful.

The drone was brought to Mars strapped under NASA’s Perseverance rover. It was positioned 65 meters away from the rover, which took pictures and recorded videos of the flight.

Because the atmosphere on Mars is thin and there is less gravity compared to Earth, Ingenuity’s rotor blades must rotate much faster to lift the craft. In addition, the drone has an on-board navigation system and software which allows it to fly on its own.

The 1.8 kg heavy drone has two cameras on board, as well as solar-powered batteries. NASA intends to use drones on future missions to Mars to find the right landing places and gather data.

During the next few weeks NASA is planning several test flights of the Ingenuity drone.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter
Nasa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Words

  • aircraft= a machine or object that can fly
  • atmosphere = mixture of gases around a planet
  • craft = here: drone
  • drone = an aircraft that does not have a pilot and is operated from somewhere else
  • gather data = collect information
  • gravity = the power that makes something fall to the ground
  • hover = float
  • in addition = also
  • Martian = about Mars
  • mission = trip, journey
  • position = to put in a certain place
  • rotate = to move around an object’s center
  • rotor blades = the flat parts that turn around at the top of a helicopter
  • rover = special car that is used to move on other planets
  • several = a few
  • solar = by the sun
  • strap = to use a band to fasten something to an object
  • surface = the top part of a planet

Scientists Develop New Effective Malaria Vaccine

For the first time in history scientists have made a major breakthrough in malaria treatment. In a lab in Burkina Faso scientists from Oxford University have created a vaccine that is 77% effective in treating the deadly disease. Up to now researchers have only been able to come up with a vaccine that is about 50% effective.

The experimental vaccine, given to 450 small children, showed promising results. Now scientists plan to treat 5000 children with the new drug in the last phase of the trial. If all goes well, millions of doses of the vaccine will be produced in India.

Malaria is one of the deadliest diseases on our planet. Over 200 million people suffer from the illness that is transmitted to people by mosquitos in tropical regions. It kills over 400,000 people each year, mostly children in Africa. According to the World Health Organization, malaria has turned out to be even deadlier than COVID-19 in Africa.

A malaria vaccine is very difficult to develop because its structure, compared to the coronavirus, is very complicated.

Child with malaria in Ethiopia
Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • breakthrough = an important new discovery that you work on for a long time
  • develop = create or make something new
  • effective = when something works the way it should
  • experimental = used as an experiment
  • promising = here: hopeful, very good
  • researcher = someone who studies a topic and tries to find out new facts about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and often works in a lab
  • transmit = to pass on to a person or animal
  • treatment = something that is done to cure someone who is ill
  • trial = test to find out if something works or not
  • vaccine = liquid that has a weak form of a virus and can protect people from becoming ill

Earth’s Axis Shifted Because of Climate Change

Recent studies and satellite data has shown that the Earth’s axis is moving faster, due to climate change and global warming. The axis of our planet is a straight line that goes through the poles. It is not in a fixed position but normally moves slowly due to movements inside the Earth. Scientists do not completely understand how this happens.

New information now shows that the movements of the poles are going on much faster than in previous decades, mainly because of the melting of glaciers and large ice masses. This has led to more water on the surface, which pulls at the poles. The North Pole, for example, is moving slowly towards Russia. Since 1980 the poles have wandered about 4 meters.

In addition, farming has led to more and more groundwater around the world being pumped up from below. This water ends up in rivers and finally in oceans, also contributing to a change in the weight of ocean water.

Scientists say that the change in the Earth’s poles is not enough to affect our daily life, but may lead to a change in the length of daytime by a few milliseconds.

Earth’s axis runs through the poles
Silver Spoon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Words

  • affect = change
  • contributing = leading to , making something happen
  • data = information
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • due to = because of
  • glacier = large mass of ice that moves down a mountain valley
  • in addition = also
  • previous =earlier
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science
  • surface = here: the top part of the Earth
  • wander = move
  • weight = how heavy something is