This series of Everyday Conversations is about a family traveling to each of the 50 states in the U.S. Join the family members as they learn about local pastimes and history. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, the family goes to Huntsville, Alabama, and visits the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.


Claudine: I thought NASA was in Florida, not Alabama.

Gina: NASA is in Florida as well, at the Kennedy Space Center, but the Marshall Space Flight Center is the largest NASA center.

Sam: And what do they do here?

Gina: For starters, they design and build engines, vehicles and instruments.

Paul: And the things they build make space exploration possible.

Gina: And it’s home to the most powerful rocket ever designed.

Paul: This is a place that enables scientific discovery related to space!

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

NASA is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is a U.S. government organization that organizes travel into space and does research about space. An acronym is a word formed from the first letter of each word in a phrase.

Space is the area beyond the Earth’s atmosphere where there are other planets, stars, etc.

For starters is an informal phrase that means first of all or to start with.

A vehicle is a machine that is used to carry people or things from one place to another. A space vehicle (or spacecraft) is a machine that carries people or things from Earth to space.

An instrument is a tool or device that is used for a particular purpose, especially for scientific work.

Space exploration is travel through space to learn more about it and discover new stars, etc.

A rocket is a spacecraft shaped like a tube. Fuel is burned and expelled out of the rear, sending the vehicle forward.

Enable means to make it possible for someone to do something.

Scientific discovery is the process of asking questions to gain information related to the natural world and find something new.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily. The American English for Educators Facebook page posts teaching materials for English-language teachers daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Learn more about planning a trip to the U.S. and applying for a tourist visa.