How The International Space Station Works

The International Space Station is a massive spacecraft that orbits the Earth. It functions as a residence for astronaut and cosmonaut personnel. The ISS also serves as a one-of-a-kind laboratory environment.

Multiple nations collaborated to build and operate the space station. The space station is made up of components constructed in orbit by astronauts. It orbits the Earth at a height of around 250 miles.

It has a top speed of 17,500 miles per hour and it orbits around the Earth every 90 minutes. NASA is learning more about residing in space by using the ISS. Such insights will allow mankind to travel further into space than we could have ever imagined.

When Was The ISS Launched?

Back in November of 1998, the very first component of the International Space Station was deployed. The Russian Zarya control module was launched by a Russian spacecraft. 2 weeks later, the shuttle Endeavour collided with Zarya in flight. The shuttle was transporting the United States Unity module. The Unity was connected to Zarya by the crew.

Additional parts were installed during the next 2 years, well before the station could be inhabited. By November 2, 2000, the very first cosmonaut personnel arrived. Since then, people have been living on the ISS for months and sometimes years at a time.

Over time, more and more additional parts have been introduced, so it is constantly being upgraded each time a new team of personnel arrives. NASA and its international partners finished construction of the ISS back in 2011, and no new components have been added since.

The capacity of the ISS is roughly the equivalent to that of a five-bedroom residence or 2 Boeing 747 airliners. It can accommodate a staff of six persons as well as tourists. The ISS would weigh about a million pounds if it were built on Earth. The station spans the size of a football field, along with the end zones, as calculated from the margins of its solar arrays. Experimental units from the U. SRussia, Japan, and Europe are included.

What Are The Different Components Of The ISS?

Aside from the labs where scientists do research analysis, the space station contains several additional components. The very first Russian pods contained the core functions required to run the space station. They also gave crewmen housing quarters. Modules known as “nodes” link various elements of the station.

The solar arrays extend out from the space station’s edges. Those arrays absorb solar energy and use it to generate electricity. A lengthy truss connects the arrays to the platform. Heaters on the truss regulate the temperature of the space station.

On the outside of the ISS, robotic arms are attached. The robot arms would have originally been used to assist in the construction of the space station. Whenever astronauts go on spacewalks outdoors, those arms may also pull them about. Other arms conduct scientific investigations. 

Cosmonauts can go on spacewalks by passing through airlocks that open to the outer world. Other spacecraft can attach to the space station using docking ports. Ports are where new personnel and visitors enter. Russian Soyuz spacecraft transports scientists to the International Space Station. Docking ports are used by robotic spacecraft to send supplies.

Why Is The ISS Necessary?

Although at first glance it may seem extravagant, the ISS has had a huge impact on our understanding of the universe and space exploration. People may now have a continuing base in space thanks to the space station. Ever since the very first crew landed, humans have been residing in space on a daily basis. 

The facilities on the space station enable crew members to conduct research that would be impossible to conduct elsewhere. Such scientific and technical discoveries benefit people all across the world. Sometimes in daily situations, space research is applied.

The end result is a product known as a “spinoff.” Scientists are also investigating what happens in the human body when people spend extended periods of time in microgravity. NASA and its allies have figured out how to maintain a spaceship and keep it running smoothly. All of these insights will be useful in future space travel.

What Is It Like To Live On The ISS?

Working on the ISS for six months at a time, as many astronauts do,  presents unique challenges. Crew members’ normal activities, such as dining, resting, and chilling out, are hampered by microgravity. Because the space station lacks refrigerators, all food must be carefully stored and is frequently vacuum-packed.

Certain foods, such as pasta that requires additional water or rehydratable eggs, come in unique forms. Both salt and pepper and all other seasoning are available in liquid form since grains would take flight if gravity were not present.

Members of the crew must tether lunch trays to their knees or to the walls at mealtime. In addition, astronauts glue items to the table when cooking food so they don’t drift away.

Morning habits are also disrupted by zero-gravity. With the lack of normal showers and toilets, astronauts and crew members use rinseless soap and shampoo, as well as spitting toothpaste into hand towels. The team must also use customized toilets with leg shackles and a waste vacuum.

While zero gravity appears to be a lot of fun, spacewalks are not for the faint of heart. Crew members must work out for more than 2 hours every day to compensate for muscle and bone density losses incurred by being in microgravity. Since scientists do not have to engage their lower body muscles to move or sit in space, their lower backs and calf muscles start to deteriorate if they fail to exercise on a regular basis.

Human immune processes and cardiorespiratory fitness are also harmed by space travel. Human hearts work hard on Earth to fight gravity and transport blood throughout the body. However, in space, blood and water flow to the upper torso and the head. As a result, astronauts’ faces are frequently swollen.

Cosmonauts may have a hard time sleeping as well. Members of the crew see 16 sunrises and sunsets every single day and must tether themselves securely within their sleeping bags to compensate for the microgravity. Cosmonauts are supposed to sleep for 8 hours per day, according to NASA, although some report difficulty sleeping owing to exhilaration or dizziness.

The Future Of The ISS

If all goes as planned, the ISS won’t be the lone off-Earth laboratory for very much longer. It has been formally permitted to run through December 2024, with a possible extension until the end of 2028. Once the station’s operation is completed, many other developments will be ready to take over. For instance, Houston-based company Axiom Space intends to use the ISS as a launchpad for its own low-Earth orbit outpost. 

Axiom will also offer other opportunities, such as buying tourist rides to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Axiom has indeed signed a deal with SpaceX in this regard, and the first of those private missions successfully took place in 2021. 

Gordon Watts