Listening Topic: Space Science – Radio report on space tourism
A. Listen to the radio program. Then number the topics below in the order they are mentioned.
___ a Reasons people might want to visit space
___ b The first space tourist
___ c The cost of space tourism
___ d The development of orbiting hotels
___ e How NASA feels about space tourism
B. Listen to the program again. Write T for true or F for false for each statement..
1 Dennis Tito is a Japanese businessman who became an astronaut.
2 There has never been enough space for tourists on a NASA space shuttle flight.
3 The biggest problem for space tourism is the high cost of launching vehicles.
4 Launching vehicles are destroyed with each launch.
5 If there is a sharp increase in the number of paying customers, the cost of space travel could decrease by as much as 70%.
6 Orbiting hotels will probably be luxurious.
7 The development and maintenance of services will be important to travelers.
2 a 1 b 3 c 4 d 5 e
1 F 2 F 3 T 4 T 5 T 6 F 7 T
A= Joyce, B = Tony, C = Larry Reynolds
A: Well, I can truthfully say tonight’s travel feature is amazing. I’ll let Tony White tell you all about it. Tony…
B: Thanks, Joyce. Imagine surprising your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day with two tickets on a launch to the moon! Well, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. You may remember that in 2001, a businessman from California named Dennis Tito paid $20 million to ride as a tourist, along with a cosmonaut, on a Russian spacecraft. Ever since then, people have been buzzing about the possibility of space tourism.
In the past, apart from the exception of a few other wealthy travelers like Tito, launches into space had only been made for the purpose of conducting scientific research. Astronauts have been sent into space to gather information and conduct experiments, and satellites have been launched for various reasons. But now, several companies are actually offering trips into outer space. In fact, there’s already a good deal of competition in the industry. Those of you who are old enough will remember how nations competed in the 60’s to be the first country to land a man on the moon. Of course, the first moon landing was a monumental accomplishment. Well if you remember that race, just think that now a handful of billion-dollar companies are fiercely competing to be first to launch a commercial shuttle into space two times within a two-week period. My, how times have changed!
As you might imagine, the potential customers for these companies are people with a sizable income and a very strong sense of adventure. Folks who are curious about what it would be like to break through the earth’s atmosphere and go where few have ever gone before, not to mention enjoy the fun of floating in a zero-gravity environment. Of course, the more one thinks about it, the more intriguing it is. After all, who wouldn’t want to explore the further reaches of our solar system? Plus, astronauts have reported that the views of earth from outer space are out of this world!
If you’re wondering why it’s taken so long for private space tourism companies to establish themselves, well, there is one huge obstacle: the tremendous cost of launching vehicles – that’s what they use to get shuttles off the ground and into space. The problem is that these launching vehicles are destroyed with each launch – that’s a lot of money gone up in smoke, literally. Scientists are working to develop reusable launching vehicles as one way to cut costs. Another option is to take advantage of a very small but very profitable market: super-wealthy, space-obsessed travelers. One former astronaut pointed out that almost every time NASA has sent a space shuttle into space, there have been several empty seats on the shuttle. So had NASA been filling the empty seats at $20 million each, the US space program could have already earned around $2 billion. That would certainly subsidize a lot of launches.
Investors in space tourism think that the future of the industry is very bright. Here’s what Larry Reynolds, a spokesperson for Stellar Excursions had to say:
C: For now, because of their high cost, these tours are still out of reach for most people. But that will be changing! The sooner we open up space travel to more paying customers – shifting from say a few hundred passengers per year to thousands – the demand will increase and eventually the cost of these launches will decrease. The cost will come down as much as 70%. In addition to lowering launch costs, exploding tourism will spark the development of many new, imaginative services, constructions and activities in the hospitality industry. Take hotels, for example.
The first hotels – let’s call them orbiting hotels, since they will probably orbit the earth or the moon – will most likely be pre-fabricated and rather spartan or simple, no-frills facilities. They’ll probably look similar to the space stations that are orbiting in space right now. And the trips, like safaris or expeditions into the wilderness, will be billed as adventure tours. Once space tourism becomes more affordable and catches on with a larger clientele, we’ll see architects, interior designers, furniture makers, fashion designers, leisure activity coordinators and many more folks creating and adapting objects and activities in ways we have not begun to imagine. It’s really very exciting – a whole new world of possibilities.
Of course if space tourism is going to be a vibrant, growing industry, then we’ll have to provide travelers with the best services possible. That will be of the utmost importance to our future customers. And that’s just what we’re committed to doing.
B: If Mr. Reynolds is right, then we might be hearing about space hotels and space shopping malls sooner than you think. For now, many scientists are working to develop the technology to fly into space cheaply and often. And several companies – including one owned by Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines – are developing space flight packages and hoping to eventually take people into space for as little as $100,000 a ticket.
As for NASA-the people who have been launching astronauts into space for over 30 years-they seem interested in the idea of space tourism, too. In fact, they’ve even agreed to allow one space travel company to use their runway and landing facilities at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
So if you’ve been planning a big vacation, you might want to wait a while and save up a little more. Before you know it, there may be weekly flights leaving for the final frontier!
This is Tony White, reporting.
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