IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|29. Exploring space

Answer these four IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions

  • Are you interested in space?
  • Do you like watching films or TV series about space?
  • Would you like to be a space tourist?
  • Do you believe in life on other planets?

Match the types of questions and statements with the information about them

 

pic6_IELTS|Int|L23


Mark the statements about multiple choice questions as True or False

Read questions 1-5 and underline the key ideas

pic1_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

Now read the text and answer questions 1-5

The Earth and Space Foundation

The community that focuses its efforts on the exploration of space has largely been different from the community focused on the study and protection of the Earth’s environment, despite the fact that both fields of interest involve what might be referred to as «scientific exploration». The reason for this dichotomous existence is chiefly historical. The exploration of the Earth has been occurring over many centuries, and the institutions created to do it are often very different from those founded in the second part of the 20th century to explore space. This separation is also caused by the fact that space exploration has attracted experts from mainly non-biological disciplines — primarily engineers and physicists — but the study of Earth and its environment is a domain heavily populated by biologists.

The separation between the two communities is often reflected in attitudes. In the environmental community, it is not uncommon for space exploration to be regarded as a waste of money, distracting governments from solving major environmental problems here at home. In the space exploration community, it is not uncommon for environmentalists to be regarded as introspective people who divert attention from the more expansive visions of the exploration of space — the «new frontier». These perceptions can also be negative in consequence because the full potential of both communities can be realised better when they work together to solve problems. For example, those involved in space exploration can provide the satellites to monitor the Earth’s fragile environments, and environmentalists can provide information on the survival of life in extreme environments.

In the sense that Earth and space exploration both stem from the same human drive to understand our environment and our place within it, there is no reason for the split to exist. A more accurate view of Earth and space exploration is to see them as a continuum of exploration with many interconnected and mutually beneficial links. The Earth and Space Foundation, a registered charity, was established for the purposes of fostering such links through field research and by direct practical action.

Projects that have been supported by the Foundation include environmental projects using technologies resulting from space exploration: satellite communications, GPS, remote sensing, advanced materials and power sources. For example, in places where people are faced with the destruction of the forests on which their livelihood depends, rather than rejecting economic progress and trying to save the forests on their intrinsic merit, another approach is to enhance the value of the forests, although these schemes must be carefully assessed to be successful. In the past, the Foundation provided a grant to a group of expeditions that used remote sensing to plan eco-tourism routes in the forests of Guatemala, thus providing capital to the local communities through the tourist trade. This novel approach is now making the protection of the forests a sensible economic decision.

The Foundation funds expeditions making astronomical observations from remote, difficult-to-access Earth locations, archaeological field projects studying the development of early civilisations that made significant contributions to astronomy and space sciences, and field expeditions studying the way in which views of the astronomical environment shaped the nature of past civilisations. A part of Syria — «the Fertile Crescent» — was the birthplace of astronomy, accountancy, animal domestication and many other fundamental developments of human civilisation. The Foundation helped fund a large archaeology project by the Society for Syrian Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Syrian government that used GPS and satellite imagery to locate mounds, or «tels», containing artefacts and remnants of early civilisations. These collections are being used to build a better picture of the nature of the civilisations that gave birth to astronomy. Field research also applies the Earth’s environmental and biological resources to the human exploration and settlement of space. This may include the use of remote environments on Earth, as well as physiological and psychological studies in harsh environments. In one research project, the Foundation provided a grant to an international caving expedition to study the psychology of explorers subjected to long-term isolation in coves in Mexico. The psychometric tests on the cavers were used to enhance US astronaut selection criteria by the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Space-like environments on Earth help us understand how to operate in the space environment or help us characterise extraterrestrial environments for future scientific research. In the Arctic, a 24-kilometre-wide impact crater formed by an asteroid or comet 23 million years ago has become home to a Mars-analogue programme. The Foundation helped fund the NASA Haughton-Mars Project to use this crater to test communications and exploration technologies in preparation for the human exploration of Mars. The crater, which sits in high Arctic permafrost, provides an excellent replica of the physical processes occurring on Mars, a permafrosted, impact-altered planet. Geologists and biologists can work at the site to help understand how impact craters shape the geological characteristics and possibly biological potential of Mars.

In addition to its fieldwork and scientific activities, the Foundation has award programmes. These include a series of awards for the future human exploration of Mars, a location with a diverse set of exploration challenges. The awards will honour a number of «firsts» on Mars that include landing on the surface, undertaking an overland expedition to the Martian South Pole, undertaking an overland expedition to the Martian North Pole, climbing Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the solar system, and descending to the bottom of Valles Marineris, the deepest canyon on Mars. The Foundation will offer awards for expeditions further out in the solar system once these Mars awards have been claimed. Together, they demonstrate that the programme really has no boundary in what it could eventually support, and they provide longevity for the objectives of the Foundation.

adapted from Fostering links between environmental and space exploration: The Earth and Space Foundation. Cockell, C., White. D., Messier, D. and Dale Stokes,

M., Elsevier Science Ltd, 2002


Questions 1-5

Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer in the reading passage?

Write:

Yes if the statement agrees with the views of the writer

No if the statement contradicts the views of the writer

Not Given if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about it

pic1_Adults|Grammar|Pre-Int|L14

Find and underline the key ideas in the questions


Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D

The Earth and Space Foundation

The community that focuses its efforts on the exploration of space has largely been different from the community focused on the study and protection of the Earth’s environment, despite the fact that both fields of interest involve what might be referred to as «scientific exploration». The reason for this dichotomous existence is chiefly historical. The exploration of the Earth has been occurring over many centuries, and the institutions created to do it are often very different from those founded in the second part of the 20th century to explore space. This separation is also caused by the fact that space exploration has attracted experts from mainly non-biological disciplines — primarily engineers and physicists — but the study of Earth and its environment is a domain heavily populated by biologists.

The separation between the two communities is often reflected in attitudes. In the environmental community, it is not uncommon for space exploration to be regarded as a waste of money, distracting governments from solving major environmental problems here at home. In the space exploration community, it is not uncommon for environmentalists to be regarded as introspective people who divert attention from the more expansive visions of the exploration of space — the «new frontier». These perceptions can also be negative in consequence because the full potential of both communities can be realised better when they work together to solve problems. For example, those involved in space exploration can provide the satellites to monitor the Earth’s fragile environments, and environmentalists can provide information on the survival of life in extreme environments.

In the sense that Earth and space exploration both stem from the same human drive to understand our environment and our place within it, there is no reason for the split to exist. A more accurate view of Earth and space exploration is to see them as a continuum of exploration with many interconnected and mutually beneficial links. The Earth and Space Foundation, a registered charity, was established for the purposes of fostering such links through field research and by direct practical action.

Projects that have been supported by the Foundation include environmental projects using technologies resulting from space exploration: satellite communications, GPS, remote sensing, advanced materials and power sources. For example, in places where people are faced with the destruction of the forests on which their livelihood depends, rather than rejecting economic progress and trying to save the forests on their intrinsic merit, another approach is to enhance the value of the forests, although these schemes must be carefully assessed to be successful. In the past, the Foundation provided a grant to a group of expeditions that used remote sensing to plan eco-tourism routes in the forests of Guatemala, thus providing capital to the local communities through the tourist trade. This novel approach is now making the protection of the forests a sensible economic decision.

The Foundation funds expeditions making astronomical observations from remote, difficult-to-access Earth locations, archaeological field projects studying the development of early civilisations that made significant contributions to astronomy and space sciences, and field expeditions studying the way in which views of the astronomical environment shaped the nature of past civilisations. A part of Syria — «the Fertile Crescent» — was the birthplace of astronomy, accountancy, animal domestication and many other fundamental developments of human civilisation. The Foundation helped fund a large archaeology project by the Society for Syrian Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Syrian government that used GPS and satellite imagery to locate mounds, or «tels», containing artefacts and remnants of early civilisations. These collections are being used to build a better picture of the nature of the civilisations that gave birth to astronomy. Field research also applies the Earth’s environmental and biological resources to the human exploration and settlement of space. This may include the use of remote environments on Earth, as well as physiological and psychological studies in harsh environments. In one research project, the Foundation provided a grant to an international caving expedition to study the psychology of explorers subjected to long-term isolation in coves in Mexico. The psychometric tests on the cavers were used to enhance US astronaut selection criteria by the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Space-like environments on Earth help us understand how to operate in the space environment or help us characterise extraterrestrial environments for future scientific research. In the Arctic, a 24-kilometre-wide impact crater formed by an asteroid or comet 23 million years ago has become home to a Mars-analogue programme. The Foundation helped fund the NASA Haughton-Mars Project to use this crater to test communications and exploration technologies in preparation for the human exploration of Mars. The crater, which sits in high Arctic permafrost, provides an excellent replica of the physical processes occurring on Mars, a permafrosted, impact-altered planet. Geologists and biologists can work at the site to help understand how impact craters shape the geological characteristics and possibly biological potential of Mars.

In addition to its fieldwork and scientific activities, the Foundation has award programmes. These include a series of awards for the future human exploration of Mars, a location with a diverse set of exploration challenges. The awards will honour a number of «firsts» on Mars that include landing on the surface, undertaking an overland expedition to the Martian South Pole, undertaking an overland expedition to the Martian North Pole, climbing Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the solar system, and descending to the bottom of Valles Marineris, the deepest canyon on Mars. The Foundation will offer awards for expeditions further out in the solar system once these Mars awards have been claimed. Together, they demonstrate that the programme really has no boundary in what it could eventually support, and they provide longevity for the objectives of the Foundation.

adapted from Fostering links between environmental and space exploration: The Earth and Space Foundation. Cockell, C., White. D., Messier, D. and Dale Stokes,

M., Elsevier Science Ltd, 2002

Fill in the gaps with the letters which correspond to the missing words

pic2_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

Summary completion

  • The answers may come from more than one part of the passage.
  • Use the title and the words in the summary to help you locate the right parts in the passage.
  • Underline the words in the passage that provide the missing information — you need to match these to the correct option in the box.
  • Read before and after the gaps to ascertain what information you need.
  • The order of the sentences in the summary may be different from the order in which the answers will be found in the passage.
  • Reread quickly through the completed summary when you have finished and make sure it makes sense and reflects the information in the passage.
  • You should spend six to seven minutes on this task, depending on how long Questions 1-9 took you.

Question 10-14

Complete the summary using the letters, A-I, below. Each letter corresponds to a word

A. comparable

B. extreme

C. connected

D. ideal

E. unexpected

F. beneficial

G. scientific

H. extended

I. individual


The Earth and Space Foundation

The community that focuses its efforts on the exploration of space has largely been different from the community focused on the study and protection of the Earth’s environment, despite the fact that both fields of interest involve what might be referred to as «scientific exploration». The reason for this dichotomous existence is chiefly historical. The exploration of the Earth has been occurring over many centuries, and the institutions created to do it are often very different from those founded in the second part of the 20th century to explore space. This separation is also caused by the fact that space exploration has attracted experts from mainly non-biological disciplines — primarily engineers and physicists — but the study of Earth and its environment is a domain heavily populated by biologists.

The separation between the two communities is often reflected in attitudes. In the environmental community, it is not uncommon for space exploration to be regarded as a waste of money, distracting governments from solving major environmental problems here at home. In the space exploration community, it is not uncommon for environmentalists to be regarded as introspective people who divert attention from the more expansive visions of the exploration of space — the «new frontier». These perceptions can also be negative in consequence because the full potential of both communities can be realised better when they work together to solve problems. For example, those involved in space exploration can provide the satellites to monitor the Earth’s fragile environments, and environmentalists can provide information on the survival of life in extreme environments.

In the sense that Earth and space exploration both stem from the same human drive to understand our environment and our place within it, there is no reason for the split to exist. A more accurate view of Earth and space exploration is to see them as a continuum of exploration with many interconnected and mutually beneficial links. The Earth and Space Foundation, a registered charity, was established for the purposes of fostering such links through field research and by direct practical action.

Projects that have been supported by the Foundation include environmental projects using technologies resulting from space exploration: satellite communications, GPS, remote sensing, advanced materials and power sources. For example, in places where people are faced with the destruction of the forests on which their livelihood depends, rather than rejecting economic progress and trying to save the forests on their intrinsic merit, another approach is to enhance the value of the forests, although these schemes must be carefully assessed to be successful. In the past, the Foundation provided a grant to a group of expeditions that used remote sensing to plan eco-tourism routes in the forests of Guatemala, thus providing capital to the local communities through the tourist trade. This novel approach is now making the protection of the forests a sensible economic decision.

The Foundation funds expeditions making astronomical observations from remote, difficult-to-access Earth locations, archaeological field projects studying the development of early civilisations that made significant contributions to astronomy and space sciences, and field expeditions studying the way in which views of the astronomical environment shaped the nature of past civilisations. A part of Syria — «the Fertile Crescent» — was the birthplace of astronomy, accountancy, animal domestication and many other fundamental developments of human civilisation. The Foundation helped fund a large archaeology project by the Society for Syrian Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Syrian government that used GPS and satellite imagery to locate mounds, or «tels», containing artefacts and remnants of early civilisations. These collections are being used to build a better picture of the nature of the civilisations that gave birth to astronomy. Field research also applies the Earth’s environmental and biological resources to the human exploration and settlement of space. This may include the use of remote environments on Earth, as well as physiological and psychological studies in harsh environments. In one research project, the Foundation provided a grant to an international caving expedition to study the psychology of explorers subjected to long-term isolation in coves in Mexico. The psychometric tests on the cavers were used to enhance US astronaut selection criteria by the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Space-like environments on Earth help us understand how to operate in the space environment or help us characterise extraterrestrial environments for future scientific research. In the Arctic, a 24-kilometre-wide impact crater formed by an asteroid or comet 23 million years ago has become home to a Mars-analogue programme. The Foundation helped fund the NASA Haughton-Mars Project to use this crater to test communications and exploration technologies in preparation for the human exploration of Mars. The crater, which sits in high Arctic permafrost, provides an excellent replica of the physical processes occurring on Mars, a permafrosted, impact-altered planet. Geologists and biologists can work at the site to help understand how impact craters shape the geological characteristics and possibly biological potential of Mars.

In addition to its fieldwork and scientific activities, the Foundation has award programmes. These include a series of awards for the future human exploration of Mars, a location with a diverse set of exploration challenges. The awards will honour a number of «firsts» on Mars that include landing on the surface, undertaking an overland expedition to the Martian South Pole, undertaking an overland expedition to the Martian North Pole, climbing Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the solar system, and descending to the bottom of Valles Marineris, the deepest canyon on Mars. The Foundation will offer awards for expeditions further out in the solar system once these Mars awards have been claimed. Together, they demonstrate that the programme really has no boundary in what it could eventually support, and they provide longevity for the objectives of the Foundation.

adapted from Fostering links between environmental and space exploration: The Earth and Space Foundation. Cockell, C., White. D., Messier, D. and Dale Stokes,

M., Elsevier Science Ltd, 2002

Read the phrases in bold and identify the ideas they refer to

pic3_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

The Earth and Space Foundation

The community that focuses its efforts on the exploration of space has largely been different from the community focused on the study and protection of the Earth’s environment, despite the fact that both fields of interest involve what might be referred to as «scientific exploration». The reason for this dichotomous existence is chiefly historical. (…)

The separation between the two communities is often reflected in attitudes. In the environmental community, it is not uncommon for space exploration to be regarded as a waste of money, distracting governments from solving major environmental problems here at home. In the space exploration community, it is not uncommon for environmentalists to be regarded as introspective people who divert attention from the more expansive visions of the exploration of space — the «new frontier». These perceptions can also be negative in consequence because the full potential of both communities can be realised better when they work together to solve problems. (…)

The Foundation funds expeditions making astronomical observations from remote, difficult-to-access Earth locations, archaeological field projects studying the development of early civilisations that made significant contributions to astronomy and space sciences, and field expeditions studying the way in which views of the astronomical environment shaped the nature of past civilisations. These collections are being used to build a better picture of the nature of the civilisations that gave birth to astronomy. (…)

In addition to its fieldwork and scientific activities, the Foundation has award programmes. These include a series of awards for the future human exploration of Mars, a location with a diverse set of exploration challenges. The awards will honour a number of «firsts» on Mars that include landing on the surface, undertaking an overland expedition to the Martian South Pole, undertaking an overland expedition to the Martian North Pole, climbing Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the solar system, and descending to the bottom of Valles Marineris, the deepest canyon on Mars. The Foundation will offer awards for expeditions further out in the solar system once these Mars awards have been claimed. Together, they demonstrate that the programme really has no boundary in what it could eventually support, and they provide longevity for the objectives of the Foundation.

adapted from Fostering links between environmental and space exploration: The Earth and Space Foundation. Cockell, C., White. D., Messier, D. and Dale Stokes,

M., Elsevier Science Ltd, 2002

Choose the questions the phrases in bold helped you answer


1. Activities related to environmental protection and space exploration have a common theme.

2. It is unclear why space exploration evolved in a different way from environmental studies on Earth.

3. Governments tend to allocate more money to environmental projects than space exploration.

4. Unfortunately, the environmental and space exploration communities have little to offer each other in terms of resources.

5. The Earth and Space Foundation was set up later that it was originally intended.

6. What was the significance of the «novel approach» adopted in the Guatemala project?

a) It minimised the need to protect the forests.

b) It reduced the impact of tourists on the forests.

c) It showed that preserving the forests can be profitable.

d) It gave the Foundation greater control over the forests.

7. GPS and satellite imagery were used in the Syrian project to

a) help archaeologists find ancient items.

b) explore land that is hard to reach.

c) reduce the impact of archaeological activity.

d) evaluate some early astronomical theories.

8. One of the purposes of the Foundation’s awards is to

a) attract non-scientists to its work.

b) establish priorities for Mars exploration.

c) offer financial incentives for space exploration.

d) establish the long-term continuity of its activities.

9. What is the writer’s purpose in the passage?

a) to persuade people to support the Foundation

b) to explain the nature of the Foundation’s work

c) to see how views on the Foundation have changed

d) to reject earlier criticisms of the Foundation’s work

Complete the extracts from the reading passage with the correct preposition

pic10_IELTS|Int|L15


Complete the sentences using the correct prepositions


  • to agree on
  • to spend money/time on
  • to be recognised for
  • to focus on
  • to refer to as
  • to prevent from
  • to stem from
  • to result from
  • to distract from
  • to believe in
  • to regard as
  • to be reflected in
  • to cope/deal with
  • to be involved in
  • to devote time to

pic4_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

Read the task and plan your 2 or 3-minute answer. Use the box below to write down your ideas

Describe a science fiction film or book you are familiar with.

You should say:

  • when you watched or read it;
  • what the plot of the film or book was;
  • how you felt about the film or book

and explain what the message in it was.


Useful language

  • far-fetched
  • convincing
  • to convey
  • suspension of disbelief
  • portrayal
  • invaders
  • sentient beings
  • artificial intelligence
  • extraterrestrial
  • exotic life forms
  • clash
  • a parley
  • morality
  • humanity
  • imminent danger

pic5_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

Find key ideas in questions 1-14, then read the passage and answer the questions

Questions 1-5

Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer in the reading passage?
Write:

Yes if the statement agrees with the views of the writer

No if the statement contradicts the views of the writer

Not Given if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about it


Questions 6-9

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D


Life on Mars?

Terraforming may sound like something out of science fiction, but some believe it is possible to turn that fiction into fact.

As plans are slowly being drawn up for the first manned mission to Mars, many space travel sceptics are asking one vital question: why go there? Mars is a barren, desolate planet, and with its thin atmosphere and bitterly cold climate, it would appear to be completely unsuitable for human life. Above all, it is a very distant place, and getting there would be an enormous challenge. However, the planet might just hold the key to long-term human survival. With the Earth’s population currently at more than seven billion and climbing, we may eventually be forced to look elsewhere in the solar system for somewhere to live. It is just possible that, contrary to photographic evidence, Mars may be more promising than it appears.

Today, Mars is a viciously cold, dry place. However, it does have some things in common with our own planet. For example, it has a daily rotation rate of 24 hours 37 minutes, compared with 23 hours 56 minutes on Earth. It also has an axial tilt of 24 degrees, which is just half a degree more than Earth’s, and a gravitational pull one-third of Earth’s. Furthermore, it holds many of the elements that are required to support life, including carbon and oxygen (in the form of carbon dioxide), nitrogen, and frozen water at its polar ice caps. In fact, if you were to travel back in time several billions years, you would notice some remarkable parallels between the atmosphere on Earth then and Mars today. Back then, Earth was also a lifeless planet; until photosynthetic bacteria developed and began to produce enough oxygen to allow for the development of animal and plant life, our atmosphere also consisted entirely of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

It comes as no surprise to learn, therefore, that some scientists believe the same process which turned Earth’s atmosphere from mostly carbon dioxide into breathable air could be repeated on Mars, but by using technology rather than by letting nature and evolution take its natural course. Terraforming, as this process is known, would initially create a greenhouse effect that would heat the planet, which in turn would create other conditions necessary to provide a suitable living environment for plants and animals. However, it would be a highly challenging undertaking, and the process of terraforming the entire planet into an Earth-like habitat could still take many thousands of years.

Three terraforming methods have been suggested, with the first already under development, albeit for a different purpose. At present, the American space agency NASA is working on a system that will use large mirrors to capture the sun’s radiation. This radiation will be used to propel spacecraft through space, removing the need for heavy and expensive rocket fuel. With a few changes, it might be possible to use similar mirrors to reflect the sun’s radiation and heat the surface of Mars. Aimed at the planet from a distance of two hundred thousand miles, these enormous mirrors would raise the surface temperature by a few degrees.

If they were concentrated on the polar ice caps, they would provide enough heat to melt the polar ice caps and release the carbon dioxide that is believed to be trapped there. Gradually, as the temperature rose, greenhouse gases would be released, and this would create a form of Martian global warming, the first stage in making the planet sustainable for life.

The second method would be to set up greenhouse gas «factories» in order to raise the temperature of the planet. It is generally accepted that greenhouse gases produced by heavy industry are raising the Earth’s temperature. Therefore, by building hundreds of greenhouse-gas emitting factories on Mars, a similar effect could be achieved. Carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases would be pumped into the Martian atmosphere. The same factories would then produce oxygen by mimicking the natural process of plant photosynthesis: they would inhale the carbon dioxide they produce, and then emit oxygen. The process could be accelerated by «sowing» the planet’s surface with photosynthetic bacteria, which would increase the rate at which oxygen is produced. Eventually, there would be enough oxygen on the planet for humans to breathe using only special apparatus similar to that used by mountain climbers. The third, and by far the most extreme, method has been proposed by space scientists Robert Zubrin and Christopher McKay. They believe that it would be possible to produce greenhouse gases and water by firing large, ammonia-bearing asteroids at the planet. Each asteroid would weigh about ten billion tons and would be powered by huge rocket engines which would move it towards Mars at over 10,000 miles per hour.

At this speed, it would take each asteroid about ten years to reach its destination. The energy produced by one asteroid slamming into Mars’ surface, say Zubrin and McKay, would raise the temperature of the planet by three degrees Celsius and melt about one thousand billion tons of ice at the polar caps. They believe it would take many of these asteroids, and at least fifty years, in order to create a temperate climate and enough water to cover a quarter of the planet’s surface. Terraforming Mars, if it is ever attempted, will be neither cheap nor easy. And it certainly won’t be quick: although optimists like Zubrin and McKay say it could be achieved in five or six decades, the reality is that terraforming is more likely to take hundreds or even thousands of years. Furthermore, it will stretch human ingenuity to its limits and will require levels of will and commitment that have rarely been seen before. The challenge of developing a habitable environment and bringing life to the cold, dry world of Mars is fraught with challenges, but it might just be one that saves the human race.

pic6_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

Complete the summary using the words from the box


Life on Mars?

Terraforming may sound like something out of science fiction, but some believe it is possible to turn that fiction into fact.

As plans are slowly being drawn up for the first manned mission to Mars, many space travel sceptics are asking one vital question: why go there? Mars is a barren, desolate planet, and with its thin atmosphere and bitterly cold climate, it would appear to be completely unsuitable for human life. Above all, it is a very distant place, and getting there would be an enormous challenge. However, the planet might just hold the key to long-term human survival. With the Earth’s population currently at more than seven billion and climbing, we may eventually be forced to look elsewhere in the solar system for somewhere to live. It is just possible that, contrary to photographic evidence, Mars may be more promising than it appears.

Today, Mars is a viciously cold, dry place. However, it does have some things in common with our own planet. For example, it has a daily rotation rate of 24 hours 37 minutes, compared with 23 hours 56 minutes on Earth. It also has an axial tilt of 24 degrees, which is just half a degree more than Earth’s, and a gravitational pull one-third of Earth’s. Furthermore, it holds many of the elements that are required to support life, including carbon and oxygen (in the form of carbon dioxide), nitrogen, and frozen water at its polar ice caps. In fact, if you were to travel back in time several billions years, you would notice some remarkable parallels between the atmosphere on Earth then and Mars today. Back then, Earth was also a lifeless planet; until photosynthetic bacteria developed and began to produce enough oxygen to allow for the development of animal and plant life, our atmosphere also consisted entirely of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

It comes as no surprise to learn, therefore, that some scientists believe the same process which turned Earth’s atmosphere from mostly carbon dioxide into breathable air could be repeated on Mars, but by using technology rather than by letting nature and evolution take its natural course. Terraforming, as this process is known, would initially create a greenhouse effect that would heat the planet, which in turn would create other conditions necessary to provide a suitable living environment for plants and animals. However, it would be a highly challenging undertaking, and the process of terraforming the entire planet into an Earth-like habitat could still take many thousands of years.

Three terraforming methods have been suggested, with the first already under development, albeit for a different purpose. At present, the American space agency NASA is working on a system that will use large mirrors to capture the sun’s radiation. This radiation will be used to propel spacecraft through space, removing the need for heavy and expensive rocket fuel. With a few changes, it might be possible to use similar mirrors to reflect the sun’s radiation and heat the surface of Mars. Aimed at the planet from a distance of two hundred thousand miles, these enormous mirrors would raise the surface temperature by a few degrees.

If they were concentrated on the polar ice caps, they would provide enough heat to melt the polar ice caps and release the carbon dioxide that is believed to be trapped there. Gradually, as the temperature rose, greenhouse gases would be released, and this would create a form of Martian global warming, the first stage in making the planet sustainable for life.

The second method would be to set up greenhouse gas «factories» in order to raise the temperature of the planet. It is generally accepted that greenhouse gases produced by heavy industry are raising the Earth’s temperature. Therefore, by building hundreds of greenhouse-gas emitting factories on Mars, a similar effect could be achieved. Carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases would be pumped into the Martian atmosphere. The same factories would then produce oxygen by mimicking the natural process of plant photosynthesis: they would inhale the carbon dioxide they produce, and then emit oxygen. The process could be accelerated by «sowing» the planet’s surface with photosynthetic bacteria, which would increase the rate at which oxygen is produced. Eventually, there would be enough oxygen on the planet for humans to breathe using only special apparatus similar to that used by mountain climbers. The third, and by far the most extreme, method has been proposed by space scientists Robert Zubrin and Christopher McKay. They believe that it would be possible to produce greenhouse gases and water by firing large, ammonia-bearing asteroids at the planet. Each asteroid would weigh about ten billion tons and would be powered by huge rocket engines which would move it towards Mars at over 10,000 miles per hour.

At this speed, it would take each asteroid about ten years to reach its destination. The energy produced by one asteroid slamming into Mars’ surface, say Zubrin and McKay, would raise the temperature of the planet by three degrees Celsius and melt about one thousand billion tons of ice at the polar caps. They believe it would take many of these asteroids, and at least fifty years, in order to create a temperate climate and enough water to cover a quarter of the planet’s surface. Terraforming Mars, if it is ever attempted, will be neither cheap nor easy. And it certainly won’t be quick: although optimists like Zubrin and McKay say it could be achieved in five or six decades, the reality is that terraforming is more likely to take hundreds or even thousands of years. Furthermore, it will stretch human ingenuity to its limits and will require levels of will and commitment that have rarely been seen before. The challenge of developing a habitable environment and bringing life to the cold, dry world of Mars is fraught with challenges, but it might just be one that saves the human race.

pic7_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

Listen to an audio extract about the International Space Station and сhoose the correct letter, A, B or C

Today I’m going to be talking to you about the International Space Station, the ISS, which is a joint venture between 20 countries: the five nations of the United States of America, Russia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and the 15 nations of the European Space Agency.

It’s the largest and most complex international scientific project in the history of mankind, and as you can imagine, something of this size doesn’t come cheap! So how much is it actually going to cost?

Well, despite the fact that it was estimated to cost 120 billion dollars, it has already gone 8 billion over budget, so now, we’re looking at 128 billion. People always want to know the same kind of information about the ISS, so I’ll run through the most common questions. First of all, they always ask me how we manage with so little water on board the station. Well, I can assure you that nothing goes to waste. Because of the impracticality of transporting large amounts of liquid into space, we have come up with some ingenious solutions. For instance, everyone on board, including the laboratory rats, loses water when they exhale or sweat. This humidity goes through a condensation process before being returned to the water supply. Because, of course, if we don’t re-use the water, the station would need about 20,000 kg of water transported from Earth each year, which just couldn’t be done.


Listen to the extract and answer the question

pic8_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

Lecturer: The next question relates to what we are going to be doing up there. Well, we’ll have teams of astronaut-scientists working in the labs and research will include, for example, tissue culture, though that won’t include plants as such, observations of the Earth from space with a view to improving our maps and the development of new commercial products. And of course, everything we do involves studying life in low gravity, as we’re in a state of weightlessness. And then, in addition to this, we’ll be keeping a very close watch on the mental state of our astronauts, because we’re interested in finding out what the long-term effects on the human psyche will be.



Now listen and answer the question

Lecturer: Another thing people always ask us is about our daily routine on board the space station.

Well, you need to be real good friends with the others because it’s a small place! The first chore of the day is to ensure all is well with the many systems. Then this is followed by breakfast, which is timed to take precisely 45 minutes. Experts have decided that togetherness around the dining table is psychologically important, so meals of pre-packed food are eaten together. Mail, which is received overnight, is read around the breakfast table, followed by a daily conference. So getting together is inescapable, even in space!

Recreational time’s pretty minimal! Some astronauts read, others listen to CDs. One guy I knew just used to stare out of the window. Then each day, in order to offset the ill effects of being cooped up in such a small space, we have two hours set aside for compulsory physical movement. Work rosters occupy six 12-hour days each week. Sundays are for rest and communication, via email and video conferencing, with family back home on Earth.


pic9_IELTS|Upper-Int|L29

Complete the article with as, from, in, on, to and with

pic4_Adults|Grammar|Pre-Int|L12

Read the task and plan your own essay. Then write the introduction and the conclusion in the box below

Space exploration is much too expensive, and the money should be spent on more important things.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

You should write at least 250 words.

Instructions

  1. Read the topic and the questions carefully.
  2. Plan what you are going to write about.
  3. Write the text according to your plan.
  4. Please use 🔗Grammarly to avoid spelling and some grammar mistakes.
  5. Check your writing before sending it for evaluation.


Useful vocabulary

  • to fund research
  • to promote innovation
  • to allocate money
  • welfare of citizens
  • societal problems
  • to commercialise space
  • to derive benefits
  • to contribute to the public good
  • a colossal amount of money
  • Are you interested in space?
  • Exam strategies
  • The Earth and Space Foundation
  • Multiple choice
  • Summary completion
  • References
  • Dependent prepositions
  • Talk about science fiction
  • Terraforming
  • Life on Mars
  • International Space Station
  • An insight into the ISS
  • Space sickness
  • My own essay
  • Terraforming
  • Life on Mars
  • International Space Station
  • An insight into the ISS
  • Space sickness
  • My own essay
  • Dependent prepositions
  • Dependent prepositions
  • Talk about science fiction
  1. 1. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|1. Being a high achiever
  2. 2. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|2. University life
  3. 3. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|3. Getting a qualification
  4. 4. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|4. Career plans
  5. 5. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Revise and Check 1
  6. 6. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|5. Perceiving colours
  7. 7. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|6. The art of colour
  8. 8. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|7. The best colour
  9. 9. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|8. Adding colour
  10. 10. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Revise and Check 2
  11. 11. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|9. In therapy
  12. 12. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|10. Placebo effect
  13. 13. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|11. Changing life expectancy
  14. 14. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|12. Leading a healthy life
  15. 15. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Revise and Check 3
  16. 16. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|13. Works of art
  17. 17. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|14. Aboriginal art
  18. 18. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|15. Being good at arts
  19. 19. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|16. What is a masterpiece?
  20. 20. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Revise and Check 4
  21. 21. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|17. Collecting fossils
  22. 22. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|18. Evolution and survival
  23. 23. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|19. The Earth's interior
  24. 24. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|20. A valuable possession
  25. 25. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Revise and Check 5
  26. 26. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|21. The role of technology
  27. 27. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|22. Film making and technology
  28. 28. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|23. The impact of IT on society
  29. 29. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|24. Number one website
  30. 30. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Revise and Check 6
  31. 31. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|25. Environmental issues
  32. 32. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|26. Wildlife wonders
  33. 33. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|27. Endangered species
  34. 34. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|28. A symbol of a nation
  35. 35. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Revise and Check 7
  36. 36. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|29. Exploring space
  37. 37. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|30. Observing the stars
  38. 38. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|31. Space tourism prospects
  39. 39. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|32. Extraterrestrial phenomena
  40. 40. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Revise and Check 8
  41. 41. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Exam Part 1
  42. 42. IELTS|Upper-Intermediate|Exam Part 2