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Simple present in narration

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The JPL narration of an animation of the Curiosity mission to Mars is a great example of the use of the simple present in narration, one of the few times a single tense is used throughout. 

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Simple present in narration

It is unusual that an English speaker will use a single tense in a conversation or discussion, but one case where it does happen is when the speaker is doing narration  การเล่าเรื่อง, การบรรยาย) of something happening now. Here’s a great example for an animation produced by the Jet Propusion Laboratory. Notice the tense is simple present except for the very end.

Here is a transcript of the animation. You should be able to understand most of the words just by watching the video, but I have explained a few that might not be so clear.

Mars Science Laboratory: “Curiosity”

Before Curiosity can explore Mars, it’s got to get there first. The last stage of the launch vehicle gives the spacecraft a final push and spins it up for an eight-and-a-half month cruise to the Red planet.

Ten minutes before hitting the atmosphere, the cruise stage separates and final preparations for entry begin. Hitting the atmosphere at about 13,000 miles per hour, the spacecraft begins to slow down. While slowing down, the spacecraft uses its thrusters to help steer towards the landing target. You throw off weights to rebalance the spacecraft, so that it’s lined up for parachute deployments.

After slowing to about Mach 2, or about a thousand miles per hour, we deploy the parachute to slow down even further. Once we’re below the speed of sound, the heat shield separates and the spacecraft floats to the ground with the landing radar.

Once we reach an altitude of about one mile, the spacecraft drops out of the backshell at about 200 miles an hour, but then fires up the landing engines to slow it down even further. Once we’ve descended to about 60 feet above the ground and are going only about two miles per hour, the rover separates from the descent stage. As the rover is lowered, the wheels deploy in preparation for landing.

Once the rover is on the ground and touchdown has been detected, the descent stage cuts the rover loose and flies away, leaving Curiosity safe on the surface of Mars.

One of the first thing curiosity does after landing is to deploy the mast which supports many cameras and instruments.

Curiosity shoots a laser at an interesting target. The (?) quickly understand kind and composition of that target from a distance of up to thirty feet. If the target is worth a closer look, curiosity can drive up and inspect it with the instruments and tools at the end of its arm.

The drill on the arm allows us to grab some of that rock and deliver it to the laboratory instruments inside the body of the rover. Those instruments can tell us even more about the mineral composition, getting us closer to understanding where life could have existed on Mars.

Curiosity will be exploring the Red Planet for at least two Earth years and there’s no telling what we will discover.

curiosity – a strong desire to know about something ความอยากรู้
atmosphere – the mixture of gases that surrounds the earth or another planet บรรยากาศ
thruster – a small engine used to provide extra force, especially on a spacecraft
steer – to control the direction in which something or someone moves นำทาง
parachute – a device that is attached to people or objects to make them fall slowly and safely when they are dropped from an aircraft. It consists of a large piece of thin cloth that opens out in the air to form an umbrella shape  ร่มชูชีพ
deployment – the putting of a piece of equipment into use
shield – something that protects you from harm  เกราะป้องกัีน
descend – to go down ลงมา
detected – noticed, discovered or found out จับได้ พบได้
composition – the way that something is formed from separate parts การประกอบเข้าด้วยกัน

To further understand the present simple, read the chapter in Understanding English verb forms: The present simple

You can find a full description of Understanding English verb forms here:

You can buy the book online here:

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