Unit 9
Text A
Pre-reading Activities

  1. As you listen to the conversation, note down the answers to the following questions:
What is the destination of the mission that's just been approved?
What is the mission expected to cost?
Who lives in that neighborhood?
What does the speaker think would be a better use for the money?

  2. Do you know the answer to the last question asked in the dialog?
Space Politics
It is expected that the discovery of possible life-forms from the planet Mars will revive public interest in space exploration. But is public support for the international space effort necessary, given that politicians seem determined to press ahead with it anyway?
The race to the moon, which was won by the Americans in 1969, was driven almost entirely by politics. The rivalry between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union meant that the two countries were determined to be the first to put a man on the moon. President John F. Kennedy promised that America would win this race and, as one of the most popular presidents in American history, he inspired a nation to think of space exploration as the ultimate test of America's superiority over her Soviet enemy.
America's success as the first nation to reach the moon, coupled with continuing Cold War rivalry, created much public support for the space programme and Washington was able to fund many more missions. During the 1970s, the moon was visited again, unmanned missions were sent to Mars and, for the first time, man-made craft were put on paths that would take them out of the solar system.
But, by the 1980s, public support for space exploration was declining. It faded almost entirely after the Challenger space shuttle disaster of 1986, and the U.S. government was under pressure to scale back its space programme. Politicians reacted by demanding cuts in spending, which put the future of many space missions in doubt.
In Russia, funding was also a problem. The end of the Soviet Union meant the country could no longer afford to sustain its space programme. In fact, spending became so tight that there was often not enough money to bring home astronauts working on the country's Mir space station.
But, in the last few years, politicians seem to have changed their attitude to space exploration, even though there is little evidence that the public have. New missions to Mars are planned, and plenty of money is being spent on other extraterrestrial activities. Last year, for instance, the U.S. spent more on space research and development than on any other area of research, except health and the military.
And spending is likely to increase in the coming years: currently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning a number of missions to Mars, and it is pressing ahead with the most expensive space-exploration project ever undertaken ? the International Space Station. (Three years ago, this project ? a collaboration between the U.S., Canada, Russia, Europe and Japan ? came within one vote of being canceled by the American House of Representatives.)
And the Americans are not the only ones spending huge sums on space exploration. The Europeans, Canadians and Japanese are expected to spend $9 billion on their share of the space station, and Europe has already spent huge sums developing its Ariane rockets, the most recent of which ? Ariane 5 ? blew up shortly after it was launched. The Russians, too, claim they are committed to supporting the International Space Station ? an expense that country seems ill able to afford.
So, if there is little public support for space exploration, where does the impetus to fund these activities come from? Promoting the cause of science is one possible answer. But recently there has been considerable controversy over whether projects like the International Space Station have enough scientific value to merit the billions that have been and will be spent on it.
NASA's reasons for building the space station are "to develop new materials [and] technologies that will have immediate, practical applications". However, for such research to be worthwhile, NASA needs private companies to develop (and help pay for) extraterrestrial research. Unfortunately, the cost of sending anything into orbit is so high that most private companies favour improving techniques on Earth. Significantly, NASA has so far not managed to get any substantial private investment to manufacture products in space.
The result is that the station seems, at present, to have only one concrete objective: research into how people can live and work safely and efficiently in space. But how important is this research? And can it possibly justify the cost of this huge orbiting laboratory?
The only purpose of studying how humans live and work in space would be to prepare for long-term space missions. At present, none are planned, and this seems unlikely to change in the near future. The main reasons for this are the costs. A manned mission to our nearest planetary neighbour Mars, for example, would cost around $400 billion. This is $50 billion more than Russia's present Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
And even if one accepts that this research is important, can it justify building a space station the size of 14 tennis courts, at a cost which is eventually expected to exceed $100 billion? Given the shortage of funds in many other areas of scientific research, it would seem not.
So why build it? There are good political reasons for doing so. It will provide work for the thousands of unemployed defence workers who depended on the Cold War for their jobs, and who make up a substantial proportion of voters in both Russia and the U.S. It will also help keep American/Russian ties strong ? another reason NASA believes the space station is a good investment. (Critics argue that there are far cheaper ways to keep the U.S. and Russia on good terms.)
And then there is the legacy of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall may have fallen, but NASA and the U.S. government still seem to believe in the ideal of one nation's superiority in space. Indeed, NASA describes the space station as "a powerful symbol of U.S. leadership".
It seems that the world's politicians are caught in a timewarp. They still believe, as they did in the 1960s, that man must conquer space in order to prove he is master of his surroundings. If only it weren't so expensive.
(1002 words)
New Words
* rivalry
n. active competition between people 竞争;对抗
craft
n.
  1. (pl. unchanged) a boat, ship, aircraft, etc. 小船;船;飞机;飞行器

  2. skill and care in doing or making sth. 工艺;手艺

  3. a trade or profession requiring skill and care (需要特种手艺的)行业;职业

  4. 诡计;手腕
* shuttle
n. 航天飞机
v. go from one place to another 穿梭往返
extraterrestrial
a. happening, existing or coming from somewhere beyond Earth 地球(或其大气圈)外的;行星际的;宇宙的
military
a. of or for soldiers or an army 军事的
n. (the ~ ) soldiers or the army; the armed forces 军人;军队;武装部队
aeronautics
n. the scientific study or practice of constructing and flying aircraft 航空学
space exploration
n. 外层空间探索
* collaboration
n. working together with sb., esp. to create or produce sth. 合作,协作
cancel
vt. order (sth.) to be stopped; make (sth.) no longer valid 取消;废除
rocket
n. 火箭
vi. move very fast; rise quickly and suddenly 飞速前进;猛涨
* impetus
n. a force that encourages a process to develop more quickly 推动力;刺激
controversy
n. fierce argument or disagreement about sth., esp. one that is carried on in public over a long period 争论;争议
worthwhile
a. worth doing; worth the trouble taken 值得做的;值得花费时间(精力)的
orbit
n. a path followed by an object, eg. a spacecraft, round a planet, star, etc. [天]轨道
v. move in orbit round sth. 环绕(天体的)轨道运行
planetary
a. 行星的
gross
a. total; whole 总的;毛的
timewarp
n. (in science fiction) a situation in which people or things from one point in time are moved to or trapped in another point in time (科幻作品中)时间异常(或间断、暂停)
warp
n.
  1. a bend or twist 变形;翘曲

  2. a fault or abnormality in a person's character 反常心理;乖戾
Phrases and Expressions
press ahead (with sth.)
continue doing a task or pursuing an aim despite difficulties, objections, etc. (不顾困难地)继续进行
coupled with
together with 与…一起;连同
scale back
reduce in size 按比例缩减,相应缩减
put sth. in doubt
make sth. uncertain 使某事物不确定
blow up
explode; be destroyed by an explosion 爆炸;炸毁
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
the annual total value of goods produced, and services provided, in a country 国内生产总值
be on good terms
have a good relationship 关系好
be caught in
be involved in 陷入,卷入
Proper Names
the Soviet Union
苏联(苏维埃社会主义共和国联盟,现已解体为独联体)
John F. Kennedy
约翰?F?肯尼迪(1917?19
  63,美国第三十五任总统[1961?1963])
the Cold War
a state of hostility between the U.S. and the USSR without actual fighting after World War II (第二次世界大战后为争夺世界霸权的)美苏冷战(时期)
the Challenger disaster
explosion of the spaceship "Challenger" in which seven people were killed, including a woman teacher who was the first non-astronaut to be invited on a flight into space 美国“挑战者”号航天飞机升空后73秒爆炸这一惨剧(19
  86)
Mir
(前苏联和现俄罗斯的)“和平”号空间站
the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA)
an agency of the U.S. government established to direct and aid civilian research and development in aeronautics and aerospace technology (美国)国家航空和航天局
the International Space Station
(多国合作的)国际空间站
the House of Representatives
(美国)众议院
Ariane
阿丽亚娜(欧洲航天局研制的火箭名)
the Berlin wall
柏林墙(1961年由东德政府修筑,1900年拆除)
 

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