Today’s TED video lesson is going to look at a fascinating 2019 TED talk by an astronaut called Cady Coleman. She lived on the International Space Station (ISS) for about six months and, in this video, she shares her experiences with a captivated audience.

Along with this video, I’m going to teach you some vocabulary related to the topic of space, we can practice some listening exercises, and do a little bit of writing practice, too. The answers for all of the questions will be posted at the bottom of this page, so try to answer them first and then check your answers there. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comment section below.


First of all, let’s look at some items of vocabulary. These will help you to understand the video better. You can look at this PPT for a few minutes and see if you know these words or not. If they are new, you can write them down in your notebook.

Just as a little test, try to fill in the blanks below with words from the PPT. You may need to make the nouns plural or change the verb form if necessary.

  • Last week, three __1__ went into space on a new __2__. They all felt nervous about the __3__ but everything went fine. After several weeks in space, their __4__ returned to earth with a __5__ landing.


Right, now let’s watch the video! I want you just to watch and enjoy it the first time. You can make notes if you like, but don’t do the questions yet. We’ll come to them later. Importantly – don’t worry if you don’t understand everything! That’s ok. It’s not important that you understand every word.


Now that you’ve had a chance to watch the video, we are going to do some listening practice. For each sort of question, I will give you a part of the video to listen to again and then you can try to find the right answers. (You can check your answers at the bottom of the page.)

Short answer questions

Listen to the first 2 minutes of the video again and answer the following questions with no more than 3 words and/or a number.

  1. What is her job?
  2. How long did she spend on the International Space Station?
  3. How old was she when she visited the space station?
  4. What does she compare the size of her capsule to?
  5. How many people are on the ISS?

True or False?

Continue to listen to the video, starting at 02:00. Decide whether the following statements are true or false, according to the speaker.

  • It’s hard work to move about the space station.
  • She enjoyed the nighttime in the space station.
  • It took a long time to get to work each morning.
  • Her team was the first to use the robotic arm.
  • They needed to lie down to get to sleep.

Summary Completion

Now skip ahead to 04:28 and continue to listen. You should try to fill in the blanks in the following summary. Use no more than three words and/or a number from the passage for each answer.

  • Although the food on the space shuttle looks bad, it actually tastes ___11___. The most important thing, though, is eating together, which is true both in space and ___12___. She found that __13__ was a good way to stay connected with people on earth, so she played a duet on the __14___ of human spaceflight. She also spoke with her family ___15___ while she was in space.


Here is a sample question from the IELTS writing task 2:

Some people think that space exploration is a waste of resources while others think that it is essential for mankind to continue to explore the universe in which we live.

Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

For a question like this, you would not need any particularly specialized space vocabulary, but you could use some of the words from the PPT at the beginning of this lesson. You would need some basic language about the world, society, and our universe, depending upon your perspective on the question.

Here is my sample answer to the question above. I have highlighted some words and phrases that will be useful for IELTS writing questions about the topic of space.

Sample Answer

Some governments and private companies spend vast amounts of money on space programmes, but this is often criticised as wasteful when there are clearly issues here on Earth that need to be solved. This essay will look at both viewpoints, and then decide that some limited space exploration should be undertaken.

First of all, it is true that there are issues plaguing this planet that need our attention more than space travel. Around the world, millions of people are starving to death or dying from preventable diseases. It seems unjust that governments are devoting billions of dollars to send people into space when these fundamental problems still exist. There are also existential threats such as extinction due to climate change, and yet we are devoting the best minds to explore other planets rather than saving this one. If it is just a matter of exploration, then there are even parts of this world that are not yet explored, such as the bottom of the ocean.

Despite those valid concerns, space exploration is still important. The astronauts who go up into orbit are not just “exploring space” in the sense that explorers used to travel the world, but rather they are scientists conducting experiments that may prove beneficial to the future of humanity. The work that they do in space could be instrumental in stopping the next pandemic or ending hunger. Certainly, money spent on Earth would appear to be a more direct resolution, but perhaps these space experiments will have a greater ultimate benefit.

In conclusion, this is a difficult issue because, while space travel is important, it seems hard to justify the vast amounts of money spent on it. However, this money will probably yield important long-term results and so it is important to continue.



  1. astronauts
  2. space shuttle
  3. launch
  4. capsule
  5. controlled


  1. (an) astronaut
  2. 6 (six) months
  3. 50 (fifty) (years old)
  4. (a) smart car
  5. 6 (six)
  6. F – it’s easy
  7. T
  8. F – it too 30 seconds
  9. F – they were the second
  10. F – they can sleep almost any way
  11. pretty good
  12. on earth
  13. music
  14. 50th (fiftieth) anniversary
  15. almost every day