Unit 3 I Lesson 10:

Reading skill


Space tourism

A. Space exploration is important. Apart from the fact that it inspires whole new generations of young scientists, it helps us understand our environment and has given us a perspective on the world in which we live. Mostly, space travel has been restricted to military or scientific exploration, but this is now changing. Now there is a growing space tourism industry, which enables people to pay money to achieve their dreams of leaving the Earth.

B. Space tourism is not yet a realistic possibility for most people, although there have been commercial flights into space for a few lucky people over the past few decades. In fact, the very first space tourist, Dennis Tito, travelled to the International Space Station as long ago as 2001. Since then, six other fee-paying astronauts have made the trip into space. The explanation for why it was possible for these visitors to have the privilege to leave the Earth, of course, is that they paid enormous sums of money. For his seven days and 22 hours in space, Dennis Tito is reported to have paid $20 million.

C. At present, there are several business ventures planning to launch commercial flights to the edge of space, and specially designed vehicles to enable this are being created. Although these do not plan to take tourists away from the Earth’s atmosphere, they do offer the chance to travel on board a suborbital flight reaching altitudes of up to 160 kilometres and moving at over 1.4 kilometres per second. This would offer customers the experience of seeing a dark sky filled with stars, as well as a stunning view of the planet Earth below. Tickets would cost in the region of $200,000 per trip, which would be a bargain compared to the fee Dennis Tito had to pay. However, the trips would be a lot shorter, offering only a few minutes of weightlessness before returning back to the ground, instead of seven days in outer space.

D. So, it is possible that space tourism could one day become achievable and affordable for many people. However, although a journey into space (or the edge of it) would be a rewarding, once-in-a-lifetime experience for the lucky few, space travel could have widespread drawbacks for the rest of us. According to a study carried out by NASA, a large number of suborbital launches would inevitably release a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the higher levels of the Earth’s atmosphere. This alone could cause large-scale disruption to the planet’s climate, increasing temperatures globally and disrupting the ozone layer.

2. Skim read the paragraphs. Match the summaries with the paragraphs. There is one extra summary that you do not need.

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Practice text 2

What does it take to become an astronaut?

A. What could be more thrilling than travelling through space and seeing the Earth from miles above? Becoming an astronaut used to be a typical ambition for children, but one they were unlikely ever to fulfil – it was even harder to achieve than becoming a rock star or Hollywood actor. However, since it was launched, the International Space Station (ISS) has been home to well over 200 people from 18 different countries. Although some critics complain that investing in the ISS is a poor use of billions of dollars, they should not forget that research in the unique conditions of the ISS has resulted in some incredible discoveries in medical treatments, weather science and satellite technology, which we now use on Earth. More teams are scheduled to be sent up in the future and are certain to make even more valuable contributions to humanity.

B. So what are the requirements for someone wanting to work on the ISS? First, the applicant must be a citizen of the nation whose space programme they are applying for, or be willing to become one. Age is also important, mid-20s to mid-40s being the preferred range. Natural intelligence is vital, and so is achievement in such fields as engineering, biological and physical sciences, and mathematics. Candidates are nearly always from a military background, often because they already have piloting skills, but in some countries, civilians can also apply. For example, in the USA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) considers people from a wide range of backgrounds.

C. Obviously, applicants are unlikely to have previous space-travel experience when they attend an interview, but recruiters also look for qualities such as adaptability and determination. Even after an applicant has got through the first stage of the interview process, there are still other tests they have to pass. For example, if it is discovered that the quality of an applicant’s eyesight is poor then, unfortunately, it’s time to go home. There is a tough physical examination as well. Astronauts need to prove they are in good shape because if they are eventually chosen to go on a mission, they will have to survive long months in microgravity, something which can cause uncomfortable swelling in the arms and legs, and can affect the cardiovascular system.

D. Eventually, out of all the applicants that apply, a small group is chosen to attend a two-year period of study. During this time, they will learn a whole range of new things, such as a new language (they will have to communicate with other nationalities on the ISS). They will also have media awareness lessons and special preparation in a simulated zero-gravity environment. Once they have completed these sessions, the potential astronauts may have to wait years before being chosen to go up to the ISS. In other words, they need to be willing and able to depart at any time.

E. If an astronaut is lucky enough to be sent to the ISS, he or she will have plenty to keep them busy. Mostly they will be involved in scientific research, experimentation and maintaining equipment. But just as in any home, the ISS must be kept clean. In fact, wiping and vacuuming up dirt and debris is even more important in space, as the tiny particles could cause huge problems if they got inside some of the computers or other equipment. Astronauts on board the ISS certainly report that they miss their children, their families and their friends on Earth, but few ever complain about boredom. Of course, technology makes it a lot easier to stay in touch nowadays.

F. While the daily routine for an astronaut on the ISS may be little different from any other kind of job, there are many new challenges each astronaut faces when they take their first trip into space. One of these is getting used to the fact that there is no more ‘night’ and ‘day’ – at least, not in the way the astronauts have previously experienced them. In fact, astronauts on the ISS will see a sunrise, or sunset, every 45 minutes. Travelling at 17,500 miles an hour means they orbit the Earth 16 times in a normal ‘day’. As a result, it means they won’t know when they are supposed to sleep any more. This is one of the reasons why they need to follow the schedule that is organised for them. The schedule also tells them when they need to visit the gymnasium – which is at least once a day. If they do not exercise regularly, they will soon lose all the muscle in their legs.

G. Another challenge concerns when, what and how the astronauts eat. The schedule, of course, tells them when it’s time to heat up a packaged meal, some of which are now prepared especially to suit the tastes of the different nationalities amongst the crew. However, for a long time astronauts have reported that normal food loses its flavour in the ISS, and they find it harder to taste anything. Scientists think this has something to do with the fact that fluid moves to the upper body in microgravity, especially the head. This causes the tissues of the face to swell slightly and makes the nose feel blocked. This is why ISS crews often prefer really spicy food and strong flavours. If the food still isn’t spicy enough, they can add salt and pepper, but these have to be squeezed out of tubes in liquid form!

3. Read the information. Then do the IELTS Reading task.  

The text has seven paragraphs (A–G). Which paragraph contains the following information? Choose the correct paragraph.

Try this exam task, but note that in the real IELTS Reading test there would not be as many questions in a matching information task such as this.

  • Read the passage and think about the purpose or function of each paragraph (explaining, comparing, giving details, etc.).
  • Look at the questions and identify the type of information you need to look for (a reason, a comparison, etc.).
  • Try to match the type of information with the functions of the paragraphs.
  • When you think you have identified the right paragraph, read it carefully to check that it contains all the correct information.
  • Remember that the words in the question may be expressed differently in the Reading passage.
  • Remember that just because you see a word from the question, it does not necessarily mean that you have found the correct paragraph.

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4. Now work on the synonyms.

Exam skill

How many uses of the Web are mentioned?

‘Information Management: A Proposal’. That was the bland title of a document written in March 1989 by a then little- known computer scientist called Tim Berners-Lee, who was working at CERN, Europe’s particle physics laboratory, near Geneva His proposal, modestly called the World Wide Web, has achieved far more than anyone expected at the time.

In fact, the Web was invented to deal with a specific problem. In the late 1980s, CERN was planning one of the most ambitious scientific projects ever, the Large Hadron Collider*, or LHC. As the first few lines of the original proposal put it. Many of the discussions of the future at CERN and the LHC end with the question “Yes, but how will we ever keep track of such a large project?” This proposal provides an answer to such questions.’

The Web, as everyone now knows, has many more uses than the original idea of linking electronic documents about particle physics in laboratories around the world. But among all the changes it has brought about, from personal social networks to political campaigning, it has also transformed the business of doing science itself, as the man who invented it hoped it would.

It allows journals to be published online and links to be made from one paper to another. It also permits professional scientists to recruit thousands of amateurs to give them a hand. One project of this type, called GalaxyZoo, used these unpaid workers to classify one million images of galaxies into various types (spiral, elliptical and irregular) This project, which was intended to help astronomers understand how galaxies evolve, was so successful that a successor has now been launched, to classify the brightest quarter of a million of them in finer detail. People working for a more modest project called Herbaria@home examine scanned images of handwritten notes about old plants stored in British museums. This will allow them to track the changes in the distribution of species in response to climate change.

Another new scientific application of the Web is to use it as an experimental laboratory. It is allowing social scientists, in particular, to do things that were previously impossible. In one project, scientists made observations about the sizes of human social networks using data from Facebook. A second investigation of these networks, produced by Bernardo Huberman of HP Labs, Hewlett-Packard’s research arm in Palo Alto, California, looked at Twitter, a social networking website that allows people to post short messages to long lists of friends.

At first glance, the networks seemed enormous – the 300,000 Twitterers sampled had 80 friends each, on average (those on Facebook had 120), but some listed up to 1,000. Closer statistical inspection, however, revealed that the majority of the messages were directed at a few specific friends. This showed that an individual’s active social network is far smaller than his ‘clan’. Dr Huberman has also helped uncover several laws of web surfing, including the number of times an average person will go from web page to web page on a given site before giving up, and the details of the winner takes all’ phenomenon, whereby a few sites on a given subject attract most of the attention, and the rest get very little.

Scientists have been good at using the Web to carry out research. However, they have not been so effective at employing the latest web-based social-networking tools to open up scientific discussion and encourage more effective collaboration

Journalists are now used to having their articles commented on by dozens of readers. Indeed, many bloggers develop and refine their essays as a result of these comments.

Yet although people have tried to have scientific research reviewed in the same way, most researchers only accept reviews from a few anonymous experts. When Nature, one of the world’s most respected scientific journals, experimented with open peer review in 2006, the results were disappointing. Only 5% of the authors it spoke to agree to have their article posted for review on the Web – and their instinct turned out to be right, because almost half of the papers attracted no comments. Michael Nielsen, an expert on quantum computers, belongs to a new wave of scientist bloggers who want to change this. He thinks the reason for the lack of comments is that potential reviewers lack incentive.

Read through the article briefly. Then read Questions 1-13 and answer the following question.

Questions 1-6

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage?

TRUE                                      if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE                                    if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN   if there is no information on this

1. Tim Berners-Lee was famous for his research in physics before he invented the World Wide Web.

2. The original intention of the Web was to help manage one extremely complex project.

3. Tim Berners-Lee has also been active in politics.

4. The Web has allowed professional and amateur scientists to work together.

5. The second galaxy project aims to examine more galaxies than the first.

6. Herbaria@home’s work will help to reduce the effects of climate change.

Questions 7-10

Complete the notes below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from passage for each answer.


Social network and internet use

Web used by social scientists including Dr. Huberman to investigate the 7. of social networks.

Most 8. intended for limited number of people – not everyone on list.

Dr. Huberman has also investigated:

9. to discover how long people will spend on a particular website;

Why a small number of sites get much more 10. than others on same subject.

Questions 11-13

Answer the questions below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

11. Whose writing improves as a result of feedback received from readers?

12. What type of writing is not reviewed extensively on the Web?

13. Which publication invited authors to publish their articles on the World Wide Web?


Extra activity

Read through the article briefly. Then read Questions 1 – 13 and answer the following question.

1. Download your homework

2. Hand it over in 1 week