Practice English everyday with VOA Special English

Thursday, June 21, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English

SpaceX and Its Mission

A rocket designed and built by a privately owned company recently made history by bringing a supply capsule to the International Space Station. It was the first private spacecraft to carry out such a mission. The company SpaceX launched its Dragon space capsule on the company's Falcon 9 rocket. It was launched May twenty-second from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX mission controllers celebrated when the rocket reached orbit and its solar panels deployed. Three days earlier, a launch attempt was cancelled at the last second when a computer found a problem with the engine. Astronauts on the International Space Station used its robotic arm to secure the capsule. Later, they released the Dragon capsule and it returned to Earth. It landed in the Pacific Ocean after its nine-day mission.

Charlie Bolden is the head of NASA, the American space agency. He spoke to reporters at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after the rocket was launched. "The significance of this day cannot be overstated." he said. The head of SpaceX watched the launch from company headquarters in California. Elon Musk compared it to winning the Super Bowl. He said there was so much hope riding on that rocket. There was "tremendous elation," he said, when his employees saw all their work operating as it should in space. NASA has invested about four hundred million dollars in SpaceX to help it develop space flight technology. And the agency also has a contract with SpaceX for twelve flights to resupply the space station.

NASA wants private companies to carry out operations in low-Earth orbit. The agency wants to focus its attention on developing the next generation of spacecraft that can travel to asteroids or Mars. The Falcon 9 rocket brought more than five hundred kilograms of supplies to the space station. SpaceX said the rocket also carried the cremated remains of three hundred people. The part of the rocket that carried their ashes will orbit the Earth for about a year until burning up in the atmosphere. Among the ashes were those of astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan. He played "Scotty," the chief engineer of the starship Enterprise in the popular TV and movie series "Star Trek."

For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. To learn more about SpaceX and the Dragon capsule, go to (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 28May2012)