Lesson 12 – Space Technology

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Read About Space Technology


Read the vocabulary terms to understand the reading better.

The atmosphere is a layer or set of layers of gases that surround Earth.

Fuel is a material such as wood, coal, gas, or oil that is burned to produce heat or power.

A GPS is a satellite-based navigation system that is used for finding the exact location of any object or place on Earth, then travelling there.

Navigation is the art and science of figuring out the location of a vehicle, then guiding it to a specific location.

A satellite is a device sent into space to orbit around Earth and used to collect information or for communications, such as sending TV and radio signals.

A space shuttle is a winged spacecraft that is used in space, then used to control the speed and direction at which the spacecraft comes back to Earth and lands.

Space Technology

Space travel has changed your life in ways you probably never imagined. From your sunglasses to the shoes you wear hiking, space technology touches your life.

You likely already know that radio and television signals are transmitted around our planet by satellite. Other satellites help with navigation. Many cars now have global positioning systems (GPS), which are navigation systems that use satellites. Other products include the scratchproof coating on sunglasses, and medical technology. Insulin crystals (to fight diabetes) were grown in space. The technology used for space shuttle fuel pumps is now used in artificial hearts.

Space technology is great but it costs a lot. It takes an incredible amount of money to put an astronaut into space. Just a toilet on the ISS costs $19 million. Also, astronauts’ dirty clothes cannot be cleaned, so these expensive garments are just thrown away. Is this the best way for a government to spend its money?

Here on Earth, money is desperately needed to improve medical care and other services. We also need more money to help the environment. Is it right to spend money on space research when the money is needed elsewhere? Are space programs just a way for one country to pretend it is better than another because it has more advanced space technology?

Space travel also creates a lot of pollution. Launching a spacecraft uses a lot of fuel. On Earth, people are trying to save fuel. Space research also adds to the garbage orbiting Earth or eventually landing on our planet. Some pieces are as large as a car. Even bits as small as flecks of paint can damage other spacecraft because of the speeds at which they travel.

The worst outcome of space research can be disastrous. Although every aspect is carefully planned, sometimes tragedies happen. In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after takeoff. Then in 2003, the shuttle Columbia broke apart as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. In both cases, all seven crew members were killed.

ISS toilet
Space Shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after take-off

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