Pioneer and Voyager

The first spacecraft to investigate the regions past Mars were the NASA Pioneers 10 and 11, launched in 1972 and 1973 as pathfinders to Jupiter. One of their main objectives was simply to determine whether a spacecraft could actually navigate through the belt of asteroids that lies beyond Mars without getting destroyed by collisions with asteroidal dust. Another objective was to measure the radiation hazards in the magnetosphere (or zone of magnetic influence) of Jupiter. Both spacecraft passed through the asteroid belt without incident, but the energetic particles in Jupiter’s magnetic field nearly wiped out their electronics, providing information necessary for the safe design of subsequent missions.

Pioneer 10 flew past Jupiter in 1973, after which it sped outward toward the limits of the solar system. Pioneer 11 undertook a more ambitious program, using the gravity of Jupiter to aim for Saturn, which it reached in 1979. The twin Voyager spacecraft launched the next wave of outer planet exploration in 1977. Voyagers 1 and 2 each carried 11 scientific instruments, including cameras and spectrometers, as well as devices to measure the characteristics of planetary magnetospheres. Since they kept going outward after their planetary encounters, these are now the most distant spacecraft ever launched by humanity.

Voyager 1 reached Jupiter in 1979 and used a gravity assist from that planet to take it on to Saturn in 1980. Voyager 2 arrived at Jupiter four months later, but then followed a different path to visit all the outer planets, reaching Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. This trajectory was made possible by the approximate alignment of the four giant planets on the same side of the Sun. About once every 175 years, these planets are in such a position, and it allows a single spacecraft to visit them all by using gravity-assisted flybys to adjust course for each subsequent encounter; such a maneuver has been nicknamed a “Grand Tour” by astronomers.

Q. Which of the following best expresses the essential information in the bold sentence in paragraph 3? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.

Select the Correct Answer:
All spacecrafts can make a maneuver every 175 years involving gravity-assisted flybys to adjust their course
The giant planets on the same side of the Sun align once every 175 years
Astronomers nicknamed this maneuver the “Grand Tour”
The “Grand Tour” is a maneuver that a spacecraft can make every 175 years to visit the four giants planets on the same side of the Sun


30 Reading Questions for TOEFL Prep - Group 2

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