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"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." This sentence captured the very essence of man's first landing on the moon. In May 1961, the American President John F. Kennedy made a call for the first men to be sent to the moon. This challenge was made just days after the first man in America, Alan Shepard, went into space. President Kennedy's challenge prompted everyone to work hard towards that goal -- put a man on the moon and bring him home safely.

Three men were chosen for this important mission -- Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. All of them were experienced pilots, well versed in the science of physics and engineering. Going into space was something not to be taken lightly as there were many dangers involved. Already, there were astronauts who had lost their lives. Three men were killed in January 1967 in a pre-flight test. They were in a cabin that was filled with oxygen when a short circuit caused an electrical spark which in turn started a fire. It spread very quickly in the oxygen-filled cabin and all three men perished in that tragedy.

It was also a matter of pride for the Americans to be the first men on the moon. At that time, they were in the middle of a 'space race' with the Soviet Union. Each side tried to outdo each other in space. So far, the Soviets seemed to be ahead of the Americans. They were the ones who put the first satellite, Sputnik, into space in 1957. A Soviet cosmonaut became the first man in space. The American, Alan Shepard, only followed the following month. If the Americans succeeded in landing a man on the moon, they would then 'win' the race.

On 16 July, 1969, Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin prepared to be launched into space. Their spacecraft, named Apollo 11, was huge, made up of some six million parts. There were about ninety engines and motors. The astronauts were dependent on their spacecraft, for if it should fail, then they too would fail in their mission. Part of their spacecraft included a booster which when ignited, would be like a small nuclear bomb. Thus, although dangerous, it was required so as to push the spacecraft off earth and into space.

The men were cleared for the launch and were soon in space. In the weightlessness of space, the men were soon floating. They had to be well strapped and buckled when they were seated. Slowly, the Apollo 11 made its way away from the earth and nearer to the moon. On the way, the spacecraft was flooded with sunlight on one side while the other side was in complete darkness. If it remained this way for long, the sunlit side would burn up while the dark side would freeze. To avoid this, the spacecraft had to be put into a roll, thus ensuring the while thing would be evenly heated and cooled.

Apollo 11 only reached the moon after a number of days. The vast distance between the earth and the moon was the reason for this. Neil Armstrong was the first to step out onto the moon. His first step was broadcast live to the people on the earth and in triumph, Armstrong and another astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, planted the American flag on the moon. The astronauts also left behind badges which had belonged to the astronauts who had died before.

Since that momentous first step, astronauts have continued to explore space.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. 'This challenge was made ... ' (paragraph 1). What does this challenge refer to and why is it a challenge ?
  2. What is 'this important mission' in paragraph 2 referring to ?
  3. Quote the six-word phrase in paragraph 2 that tells us that going to space was a serious affair.
  4. What is a pre-flight test ?
  5. 'Three men were killed in January 1967 ...' (paragraph 2). What caused the men's death ?
  6. What was the 'space race' (paragraph 3) all about ?
  7. What kind of danger did the booster pose ?
  8. Explain clearly why straps and buckles were needed when the men were seated in the spacecraft.
  9. What was the aim of rolling the spacecraft ?
  10. Why did the astronauts plant the American flag on the moon ?
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Answers
 

1.

It refers to the call for the first man to be sent to the moon.
 

2.

It is flying to the moon and coming home safely.
 

3.

It is 'something not to be taken lightly'.
 

4.

It is to check and see if there is any problem with the spacecraft before the actual take-off.
 

5.

A short circuit started a fire that spread to the cabin they were in which was filled with oxygen.
  6. It was a competition between the Americans and the Soviets to see who could outdo each other in space.
  7. It worked like a nuclear bomb, so it could blow up the whole spacecraft if anything went wrong.
  8. They would float around in the spacecraft as everything is weightless in space.
  9. The aim was to ensure that the spacecraft was evenly heated and cooled. / The aim was to ensure that the sunlit side of the spacecraft did not burn up and the dark side did not freeze.
  10. It was to show that the Americans had become the first to land on the moon. / It was to show that America had won the race to be the first to land on the moon.
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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