Private Cargo Rocket Heads to Space Station By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
The Falcon 9 has made history in its voyage to the International Space Station.
This will be the first commercial spacecraft to land at the space station.
“A private cargo rocket bound for the International Space Station blasted off early Tuesday morning in what NASA hopes will mark an important step in handing routine space missions over to the private sector.
With the brilliant glare of nine engines spewing out 1 million pounds of thrust, the rocket, a Falcon 9 built by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Calif., or SpaceX, rose slowly off the launching pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here, then arced upward into the night sky… If the cargo capsule makes it all the way to the space station, it would be the first commercial, rather than government-operated, spacecraft to dock at the space station…In an aborted liftoff on Saturday morning… technicians had found a faulty valve and replaced it…
This time as the countdown clock hit zero, the engines remained ignited. Less than 10 minutes later, the cargo capsule, known as the Dragon, was in orbit… The hard part of the SpaceX mission is still to come. It has to catch up to the space station, which circles the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour. …it is to fly about 1.5 miles underneath the space station to demonstrate its communication and navigation systems.” read more…
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: approximately 2 hours.
Materials: student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read, about the historical flight of the Falcon 9 rocket. They will share their thoughts on the subject through discussion and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Tasks
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students read the title of the post, the title of the article, and analyze the photos. Next, have them make a list of words, and phrases they might find in this article.
• Stimulating background knowledge
Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about the Falcon 9 expedition. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold (taken from the article) and use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance.
- With the brilliant glare of nine engines spewing out 1 million pounds…
- …SpaceX, rose slowly off the launching pad…
- The payload is only about 1,000 pounds of cargo…
- The importance is instead technical and symbolic.
- A successful mission would reinforce NASA’s efforts…
- it followed the same pattern… in which a last-minute glitch halted the first attempt…
- In an aborted liftoff on Saturday morning…
- …enabling the capsule to be launched on a trajectory trailing the station.
- the engines remained ignited.
- Several other early tasks were also successful including deployment of its solar arrays…
• Word -Recognition
Directions: Students are to circle or underline the correct word or phrase from the article. Have them skim the article to check their responses.
- With the brilliant gloss/glare of nine engines spewing out…
- The payload is only about 1,000 impound/pounds of cargo…
- The importance is instead technical/technicality and symbolic.
- If the cargo capsule/cap makes it all the way to the space station…
- “We’re really at the drawn/dawn of a new era of space exploration…”
- With successfully/success of this flight…
- Tuesday’s launching/lunching was the third for the Falcon 9 rocket…
- In an abort/aborted liftoff on Saturday morning…
- Falcon 9 rocket had already ignited/ignition before computers shut them down…
- Less than 10 minutes later, the cargo capsule, known as the Dragon, was in obit/orbit.
• Questions for Reading Comprehension
True / False
Directions: If the statement is true, students write (T) if the statement is false they write (F) and provide the correct answer from the article.
- This event took place in the state of Florida.
- The Falcon 9 blasted off early Wednesday morning.
- Another name for Space X is Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Virginia.
- With success of this flight, SpaceX would begin a contract to fly 12 cargo missions to the space station.
- Tuesday’s launching was the second for the Falcon 9 rocket.
- Falcon 9 carried to orbit the ashes of 200 people.
- The hard part of the SpaceX mission is still to come.
- When it reaches the Space Station, the Dragon would remain attached to the station until the end of the month.
- A robotic arm on the Falcon 9, will grab onto the Dragon and swing it to a docking port.
- If SpaceX does not reach all of the goals on this flight it will still get the contract.
• Grammar Focus
Identifying Parts of Speech
Directions: Students are to identify the verbs in the following paragraphs, then use as many of the terms as possible to write their own paragraph about the Falcon 9 journey.
With the brilliant glare of nine engines spewing out 1 million pounds of thrust, the rocket, a Falcon 9 built by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Calif., or SpaceX, rose slowly off the launching pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here, then arced upward into the night sky. “What a spectacular start,” the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., told reporters afterward. “It was a picture-perfect launch.”…Tuesday’s launching was the third for the Falcon 9 rocket and it followed the same pattern of two earlier ones in 2010, in which a last-minute glitch halted the first attempt before the rocket went off without a hitch on the next try… In an aborted liftoff on Saturday morning, the engines of the 157-foot tall Falcon 9 rocket had already ignited before computers shut them down because of high pressure in the combustion chamber of the center engine.
III. Post Reading Tasks
• Reading Comprehension Check
• Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Directions: Place students in groups and have then answer the following questions. After, have the groups share their thoughts as a class.
- Why do you think NASA (which is government funded) wasn’t able to do what SpaceX has achieved?
- Some have argued that instead of spending money on space flights, our first concern should be here on earth helping people living in abject poverty, or under worse conditions. Do you agree or disagree with this idea? Provide reasons for your views.
- It has been argued that the only people who will benefit from this type of space exploration are the very rich. Do you agree or disagree? Provide support for your views.
• Essay Writing
Directions: Have students choose a topic and write an essay.
- Write an essay in which you discuss who Elon Musk is and why he is essential to Falcon 9 flight.
- Write an essay in which you discuss the pros and cons of space exploration for future generations.
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Elon Musk 60 Minutes interview
“Elon Musk (born 28 June 1971) is a South African-born American entrepreneur. He is best known for founding SpaceX, and co-founding Tesla Motors and PayPal (initially known as X.com). While at those companies, he oversaw the construction of the first electric car of the modern era, the Tesla Roadster, a private rocket known as Falcon 9/Dragon, and the Internet payment system PayPal. He is currently the CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity. Musk holds a bachelor’s degree in Business from the The Wharton School,and a second bachelor’s degree in Physics from University of Pennsylvania, School of Arts and Sciences.” read more…
The following is an interview with Mr. Musk and 60 minutes.
• While Listening Tasks
Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. As students listen to the video if a statement is true they mark it T if the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- The final shuttle mission ended last August.
- For the first time in 3 decades the United States had no way to launch astronauts into space.
- Instead of NASA designing the one man spacecraft congress decided that private industry should design, build, and fly it.
- This decision opened the door to commercial development.
- One of the companies vying for that contract is SpaceX.
- Elon Musk is a engineer of SpaceX.
- Musk is 40 years old, a naturalized American citizen and reportedly worth nearly 2 billion dollars.
- As a teenager he wrote space stories in his native South Africa.
- Musk immigrated to the US and to Silicon Valley.
- Musk is the founder of Paypal.
- Musk made 4 trips to Russia trying to buy an intercontinental missile.
- Musk decided that the only way to get an affordable rocket was to buy one from South Africa.
- Musk has college degrees in business and rocket science.
- One of the main team members of SpaceX is former astronaut
- Garrett Reisman.
- Reisman flew on one of the final shuttle missions.
- Most of the engineers work at Space X because they want a chance to fly in a rocket.
- President Obama vetoed SpaceX.
Post Listening Task
- Questions for Discussion
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.
- After listening to this video has your personal opinion of SpaceX or Elon Musk changed in any way? If yes, explain how. If no, explain your viewpoint.
- Did you agree with everything Elon Musk said? Discuss which comments you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with.
- With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask Elon Musk, or any of the engineers who work at SpaceX.
Please come back again.