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LESSON TWENTY-FIVE HERE!
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In today’s lesson, entitled Mission to Mars, you will be listening to an informational passage about the planet Mars. You will also learn about the many challenges scientists and engineers must overcome in order to establish a future settlement on the Red Planet. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening.
Mission to Mars
Listen and Learn
Lesson Twenty-Five PASSAGE ONLY TRACK:
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin was a contestant on the TV show Dancing with the Stars. But that’s not how he wants to be remembered. He also happened to be the second man to set foot on the Moon. But memorable as that was, and as famous as it made him, he doesn’t want that to be his only claim to fame, either. Instead, the 85-year-old Apollo 11 astronaut wants to be remembered as the man who developed the “master plan” to colonize Mars. As a step towards realizing this life-long dream, Aldrin recently teamed up with the Florida Institute of Technology to launch the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute. So far Aldrin has presented only a brief outline of how he plans to get “settlers” to Mars by 2039. But his program is already getting a lot of positive “buzz” in the space-exploration community.
But why Mars? Why not the Moon or our closest neighbor, Venus?
Simply because after Earth, Mars is considered the most habitable body in our solar system, offering several advantages over these other candidates. For one, Mars’s soil may contain water that can be extracted and treated for human use. Neither Venus nor the Moon has water. For another, Mars has an atmosphere, albeit a thin one, that can offer protection from harmful cosmic and solar radiation, something the atmosphere-less Moon can’t do. Also, while temperatures on the Moon and Venus range from too cold to too hot, Martian temperatures at low altitudes are similar to Antarctica’s. And finally, while a day on Venus is 120 Earth-days long, a day on Mars lasts 24 hours 39 minutes, making its day/night rhythm almost Earth-like (though Mars receives far less sunlight). This means that by using solar panels to harness the sun’s rays during the day, living quarters could be powered and heated for when nighttime temperatures dip below 70 degrees centigrade.
So yes, Mars is theoretically habitable. But actually getting and living there? Well, that presents all kinds of challenges. After all, the planet is over 200 million miles away, a six-to-nine-month trip, and engineers have yet to develop a spacecraft that can guarantee the safe transport of humans for that distance and duration. Also, Mars’s atmosphere consists of 95% carbon dioxide, poisonously fatal for us oxygen-breathing humans, making spacesuits mandatory. What’s more, Martian surface gravity is only 38% that on Earth, which promises to make standing upright or walking very tricky. The fact is, what we know about Mars’s landscape and atmospheric conditions is based entirely on information relayed from a couple of rovers and a handful of orbiting satellites. Mars may only be about half the size of Earth, but there’s still a lot of ground to cover before scientists can pinpoint an ideal location to establish a settlement.
So realistically speaking, colonizing Mars is decades away. It will require many further technological advances and the development of complex life-support systems—not to mention a few manned missions to provide hands-on, firsthand knowledge of the Red Planet. But that hasn’t stopped space-exploration organizations from getting ready. An international team funded by NASA, for example, recently started living in a dome near a barren Hawaiian volcano to simulate what it would be like to live on Mars. The group, made up of four scientists, an architect, and a pilot, must survive a full year living in close quarters without fresh air or fresh food. To make the experience even more realistic, any team member who wants to step outside the 1,000-square-foot, solar-powered dome for some alone time must wear a spacesuit. Researchers hope that this experiment will shed some light on the psychological aspects of living in long-term isolation and bring us one step closer to making Buzz Aldrin’s “master plan” a reality.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn Lesson Twenty-Five LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions will be TRUE-FALSE and based on FACTUAL CONTENT and LOGICAL INFERENCE. Listen to each question carefully and mark your answer. Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.
1. Being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars has been Buzz Aldrin’s greatest achievement so far.
2. Buzz Aldrin has presented a detailed description of how he plans to get “settlers” to Mars by 2039.
3. Mars is NOT Earth’s closest neighbor in the solar system.
4. Scientists have discovered a river on Mars’s surface.
5. A day on Mars is only slightly longer than a day on Earth.
6. Mars receives less sunlight than Earth.
7. It is perfectly safe for humans to walk on Mars’s surface without a spacesuit.
8. There are currently a handful of rovers surveying Mars’s surface.
9. Six people recently started living in a dome near a barren Hawaiian volcano to simulate what it would be like to live on Mars.
10. To make the year-long simulation experiment more realistic, team members must wear a spacesuit at all times.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!
You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.
KA WORDCAST: Listen and Learn! Lesson TWENTY FIVE
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.
Instead, the 85-year-old Apollo 11 astronaut wants to be remembered as the man who developed the “master plan” to COLONIZE Mars.
Before we look at the verb COLONIZE, it’s important that you first understand what a COLONY is. A COLONY is a country or an area that is governed by people from another, more powerful country. A COLONY also sometimes refers to the people who settle in a COLONY.
Before it achieved political independence in 1960, the Ivory Coast had been a COLONY of France.
In the beginning, New York was a small COLONY along the Hudson River that was mainly inhabited by Dutch settlers, but during the 18th century, many English settlers began moving into the area.
People who share an interest (often artistic or lifestyle-related) may also form a COLONY and live and work together.
When Mary was just six years old, her parents took her and the rest of the family to live in an artist’s COLONY in Eastern Washington.
Now, back to COLONIZE. In the sentence from the listening passage above, COLONIZE means to send people to a new place to establish a community (that is, a COLONY) there. Historically speaking, COLONIZE means to settle among and take political control of an area or country that is not your own, and to send people (settlers) from your own country to live there. (For example, from the 16th to early 20th centuries, Great Britain COLONIZED much of North America, Asia, and Africa.) Since Mars is (as far as we know!) uninhabited territory, here COLONIZE means something slightly different. Some synonyms for COLONIZE include settle, establish a colony, found, pioneer, and populate.
Scandinavian names are quite common in the north of Scotland because many centuries ago, Vikings COLONIZED much of the area.
For the first settlers who COLONIZED the New World, living peacefully with the indigenous people was the key to their survival.
Animals and plants also COLONIZE in COLONIES, that is, live and grow in large numbers in a particular area.
The glis-glis, commonly known as the edible dormouse, will COLONIZE in your attic, garage, tool shed, or any other shelter with easy access to food.
Planting lavender and other fragrant flowers is the best way to attract COLONIES of honeybees to your garden.
This means that by using solar panels to HARNESS the sun’s rays during the day, human living quarters on Mars could be powered and heated for when nighttime temperatures dip below 70 degrees centigrade.
In the above sentence, HARNESS is a somewhat figurative verb that means to control and make use of natural resources to produce power or to achieve something. Utilize and exploit are possible substitutes.
More effort must be made to HARNESS wind and solar energy to power impoverished communities in developing countries.
I don’t really understand how electricity is generated once energy is HARNESSED from hydroelectric dams, do you?
Scientists are still looking for ways to HARNESS the kinetic energy in tides, waves, and the ocean’s currents.
This year, rather than hiring a professional drama and music teacher to produce the school play, the school plans to HARNESS the many creative talents of the pupils’ parents.
As a noun, HARNESS has a more literal or everyday meaning. It refers to a set of leather or metal straps and fittings that are put around a horse’s head and body so that the horse can be fastened to a carriage and its movements controlled. A HARNESS can also be used to fasten something such as a parachute to a person’s body or to restrain a child.
There are bridle shops all over the English countryside that sell HARNESSES and headpieces for horses.
Once Murray was strapped into the parachute HARNESS, he knew that he had to keep his promise to his mates and go through with the skydive.
At the airport, I had a HARNESS to restrain my mischievous two-year-old; otherwise, I’m sure I would have lost her.
Make sure that the car-seat HARNESS is nice and snug so that your child can’t wriggle out.
As a verb related to this usage, HARNESS means to put a HARNESS on a horse or other animal.
Once the horse settled down, Scotty was able to HARNESS it to the gatepost.
In the olden days, stable boys were employed to groom and HARNESS the many horses owned by Britain’s landed gentry.
The fact is, what we know about Mars’s landscape and atmospheric conditions is based entirely on information RELAYED from a couple of rovers and a handful of orbiting satellites.
Here, to RELAY means to receive or gather and then to send or pass on information or news by way of transmitted signals. Transmit, feed, and communicate are the nearest synonyms.
The Queen’s annual Christmas message will be RELAYED and broadcast live on TV and radio at 3 p.m.
Traffic helicopters RELAYED information to news stations about the high-speed car chase taking place on the freeway.
Whenever you open a webpage, data gets recorded and RELAYED to a central database.
In everyday usage, you can also RELAY news or information verbally, as in:
Parker’s out right now, but I’ll be sure to RELAY your message to him as soon as he gets home.
As a noun, a RELAY is an electronic device that receives radio or television signals and passes them on, as in:
Despite opposition from the local community, a station for a television RELAY was erected on a hilltop site just outside the town.
A RELAY is also a type of race in which each member of a team takes turns running or swimming a section of the race.
We waited for hours in the rain for the Olympic torch RELAY to pass through our village on it’s way to the Olympic stadium in London.
Our school’s 4×100 RELAY team is made up of Bobby J., Marcus, and the Faraji twins.
The fact is, what we know about Mars’s landscape and atmospheric conditions is based entirely on information relayed from a couple of rovers and a handful of ORBITING satellites.
In the sentence above, ORBIT is a verb. But to understand the verb, you need to know what an ORBIT is. ORBIT refers to the elliptical or curved path followed by a planet or other celestial body as it moves around another planet, sun, or star. Course, path, rotation, and cycle are some good substitutes.
Apparently, Earth’s ORBIT around the sun changes every 100,000 years.
Halley’s Comet takes about 75 to 76 years to complete its ORBIT around the sun.
A “supermoon” occurs when a full moon coincides with the Moon’s perigree—the point in the lunar ORBIT when the Moon is closest to the earth—making it appear 14% larger and brighter than normal.
Now back to the verb ORBIT. When a planet, celestial object, satellite, or other spacecraft ORBITS another object in space, it moves around it in an elliptical pattern. Revolve around, circle around, and travel around are some synonyms.
Currently, there are more than 2,000 artificial satellites ORBITING the earth.
All the planets in our solar system ORBIT the sun in an elliptical pattern, not circular as one might believe.
In 2003, astronomers working out of the California Institute of Technology claimed that they had discovered a tenth planet ORBITING our sun.
The term “geocentrism” refers to the belief that the sun and all the other planets and stars in our universe ORBIT around the earth.
The adjective ORBITAL is used to talk about the ORBIT of a planet or other object in space, as in:
Next week, the United Nations will hold its annual meeting to address ORBITAL debris, otherwise known as “space junk,” and ways in which to dispose of it.
In British English, an ORBITAL is a very large ring road or motorway that circles the perimeter of a city or town.
Traveling at the national speed limit and in normal traffic, the average driver can get all the way around the 117-mile London ORBITAL in an hour and forty minutes.
An international team funded by NASA, for example, recently started living in a dome near a BARREN Hawaiian volcano to simulate what it would be like to live on Mars.
BARREN is an adjective that describes land or soil that is too poor or infertile to grown plants in. Unproductive, arid, desolate, and uncultivable are some good substitutes.
The higher you climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the more BARREN the landscape becomes.
As long as there is an ample water source for irrigation, watermelon can be cultivated even on BARREN land.
Once a lush, green oasis for growing grapes and other fruit, the area north of Polokwane in South Africa is now a dry, BARREN land unfit for cultivation.
Buildings and other places can be BARREN, too. Synonyms for this usage include bleak, uninhabited, and lifeless.
Dim and BARREN, Professor Hanley’s office looks more like a prison warden’s office than one that belongs to the head of the music department.
The first apartment the real-estate agent showed Danny was a BARREN, converted loft with no shower or working toilet.
When speaking of animals, people, or plants, BARREN means unable to reproduce or bear fruit.
You can try rejuvenating a BARREN apple tree by making a cut through the bark all the way around the trunk a couple of weeks after full bloom.
Much to our disappointment, our vet confirmed today that our beloved family dog Ginger is BARREN and will not be able to have puppies.
Finally, BARREN is sometimes used figuratively to mean not producing anything useful or successful, as in:
How many more humiliating losses must our school’s basketball team face before they break their BARREN streak?
An international team funded by NASA, for example, recently started living in a dome near a barren Hawaiian volcano to SIMULATE what it would be like to live on Mars.
SIMULATE is a verb that means to use computers and models to create particular conditions that exist in real life, usually for study and training purposes. Imitate, replicate, mimic, and reproduce are some good substitutes.
Astronauts preparing for a stint in the International Space Station SIMULATE zero gravity by performing daily routines in reduced-gravity aircraft.
Every year, our local fire and police departments SIMULATE a natural-disaster scenario to test the readiness of their emergency personnel.
The U.S. military often uses video games to SIMULATE battles and air strikes.
SIMULATE also means to make something look like something else.
Did you know that in the famous shower scene in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho, chocolate syrup was used to SIMULATE blood?
Unfortunately, the fireplace in our living room is not real, but is actually just a gas heater that SIMULATES a wood-burning fireplace.
SIMULATE also means to pretend that you have a particular feeling. Feign is the nearest synonym.
I had to SIMULATE surprise when my friends and family jumped out and shouted “Happy Birthday.” I’d known all along that my sister was throwing me a surprise birthday party.
SIMULATION is one noun form. It refers to a situation in which certain conditions are created artificially in order to study or experience something that could happen or exist in reality.
SimCity is a popular, open-ended SIMULATION game in which the player, acting as mayor, must expand his or her city on a set budget.
Next week, students will be taking part in the Model UN, an educational SIMULATION in which students will learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations itself.
A SIMULATOR is a piece of equipment that artificially creates certain conditions in order to train somebody to deal with or react to a situation he or she may someday face in reality. A SIMULATOR can also be used just for fun or for the experience of it, as in the second sentence below.
Driving SIMULATORS are used in driver’s education courses to teach learner drivers how to look out for possible dangerous situations.
A 60-minute session on a Boeing 737 flight SIMULATOR can set you back more than £100.
The adjective SIMULATED means not real, but made to look real or like the real thing, as in:
More than $5 million will be invested in a new SIMULATED rainforest attraction at the city’s zoo and botanical garden.