We all know that the International Space Station (the ISS) orbits our planet.
Some may know that important scientific experiments are routinely conducted on the ISS, but for the average person, that’s it!
We’re here to shed some of the best facts on this technological marvel, so buckle up and prepare to take off – it’s going to be quite a ride!
The International Space Station was built between 1998 and 2011.
The ISS was not created by just one nation, but by an extensive collection of different national space agencies.
Some modules were developed by the USA in the 90s and early 2000s, others by Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.
Actual assembly began in 1998 when the first module, the Russian-made Zarya, was launched on a Russian Proton rocket.
The remaining modules were all brought to the ISS by NASA’s space shuttles.
It was uninhabited until 2000.
The first crew to live aboard the ISS was shipped there in November 2000 on the Russian-built Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft as Expedition 1.
The crew of three consisted of two Russian cosmonauts, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei K. Krikalev, and an American astronaut, Bill Shepherd, who served as the mission’s commander.
All three had extensive experience in space, with Krikalev having already spent a full year in space aboard the Soviet space station MIR.
The ISS is constantly evolving.
By 2011, the space station had amassed more than 150 different components and fourteen pressurized modules, with astronauts spending more than 1,000 hours in space connecting all the pieces together.
In the eleven years that followed, five more modules were added, and more modules are already in the works.
Astronauts on board the ISS have to do intensive exercises every day.
Oddly enough, life in space isn’t good for the human body.
One of the most important factors is the near absence of gravity, which can cause an astronaut’s bones to lose density and their muscles to slowly fade.
This is where exercise comes in as it can help prevent these problems.
The crew on board the ISS can see sunrise and sunset 16 times in 24 hours.
This happens because the ISS orbits the Earth once every 1.5 hours. As you can imagine, this can mess up astronauts’ sleep schedules.
Since only microgravity prevails on the ISS, astronauts cannot simply lie down in bed.
Instead, they sleep in sleeping bags attached to the walls of crew cabins — tiny compartments just big enough to fit one person.
Most of the research done onboard the ISS focuses on life in space.
When the astronauts aren’t sleeping, eating, or relaxing, they’re conducting advanced scientific experiments.
Experiments include trying to grow plants in zero gravity, testing how well microbes can survive in space, studying how space affects DNA, and even whether normal human reproduction is possible!
The latter hasn’t been tested on humans yet, but several animal studies have been conducted that don’t look favorable.
Some of the experiments carried out on the ISS look deep into the stars.
Some of the instruments on the ISS are designed to look out into the universe to better understand what’s going on.
One instrument, NICER, studies the densest object in the universe, neutron stars.
On the other hand, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is used to try to capture and analyze cosmic rays, which are some of the fundamental components of the universe.
This in turn is used by physicists to try to learn more about the origins of the universe.
The ISS is probably the most expensive single object ever built.
By 2010, the total cost had already reached US$150 billion, with the US contributing US$58.7 billion, US$12 billion from Russia, US$5 billion from Japan and Europe, and US$2 billion from Canada .
The rest of the money went into ferrying components and astronauts to and from the ISS aboard various spacecraft, which doesn’t come cheap!
The longest time an astronaut spends on the ISS is 340 days.
Russian cosmonaut Mikhael Kornienko and American astronaut Scott Kelly were the lucky two to spend the record-breaking time aboard the ISS.
The most exciting experiment required little to no work for the astronauts as they studied the long-term effects of being in space.
Scientists were able to make accurate comparisons because they could study both Scott Kelly and his earthbound identical twin brother, Mark.
It won’t stay in space forever.
Many of the modules on the ISS are already quite obsolete as the technology used has evolved by leaps and bounds since their creation.
This means that while the ISS could theoretically stay in space much longer than planned, it will ultimately become unusable.
The stay of the ISS in space has already been extended several times, but now the end is in sight.
In January 2022, NASA announced plans to de-orbit the ISS in January 2031, crashing it into a remote part of the South Pacific.
All good things must come to an end, but it will still be sad when we can’t look up at the night sky and see the ISS flash back to us.
The ISS will always remain a beacon of hope for peaceful and productive international cooperation.
We hope that you are not only informed but also inspired by all the possibilities that the ISS has opened up for mankind!