International Space Station

International Space Station

After the sun and the moon, it is the brightest object in the sky. It is the remotest inhabited outpost of our species, and represents the pinnacle of human endeavour and achievement. But how much do you know about the International Space Station? Stop watching that video of a cat that jumps really high (amazing though it is), and allow NASA’s recently departed station commander, Sunita Williams, to take you on a remarkable personal tour:

For the past 12 years, while we have been scurrying about down on the surface of the planet doing nothing of any real relevance, the International Space Station has been gliding above our heads 15.7 times every day at 17,500 mph (about 93 minutes per orbit). For those 12 years, it has been continuously occupied by an international team of astronauts, conducting experiments and helping to build up the ISS in a modular fashion. As the following video shows, assembling an International Space Station is a bit like putting up flat-pack furniture, though in practice it’s probably a bit more complicated:

The International Space Station grew out of the amalgamation of several national projects; it is a joint project of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, and its ownership and use has been established by intergovernmental treaties. It has been visited by over 200 astronauts from 15 nations, as well as seven space tourists. The most recent space tourist to visit was Guy Laliberté, CEO of Cirque du Soleil, who paid $40 million to fly there for 11 days in 2009. If you have the money you can apply to Space Adventures, the space travel agency. If you don’t, here’s what you’re missing:

To find out when the ISS is flying over your head at Spot the Station
For lots more info and media about the station or the astronauts, visit NASA’s International Space Station page

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