Kevin Orrman-Rossiter does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
The International Space Station after undocking from the now-retired Endeavour space shuttle.
As the most visible man-made object in the night sky the International Space Station (ISS) is of significance to humankind.
The ISS fulfils three broad research roles: space medicine, Earth and solar studies, and microgravity experiments.
Understanding the response of the human body to low and microgravity is critical for space exploration.
The space station provides an ideal environment to study many aspects of humans in space, including: balance, digestion, muscle and bone retention and heart behaviour. It also provides a unique window on the earth and sun – one in which scientists can use their understanding to respond to opportunities as they arise as well as conduct scheduled experiments and observations. As a solar observatory, the space station is clear of Earth’s atmosphere, giving a unique perspective on terrestrial weather and atmospheric science. The four laboratory sections house experiments selected on their scientific merit or educational and industrial interest. One of the main “big science” experiments on the space station is the alpha magnetic spectrometer (AMS) – an instrument designed to search for dark matter. The AMS has been in operation and collecting data since June 27, 2011 and has an expected operational lifetime in excess of ten years. The International Space Station with the Endeavour Space Shuttle docked, along with descriptions of each section of the station.
Approaching the the Rassvet dock in your Soyuz spacecraft, you realise just how big and frail the space station is.
This is the space station control and services centre, containing the Russian guidance and navigation computers. Back through Zarya you’ll come to the US-built Unity node, a galley where it is possible for all the crew to gather and eat together.
Just off from this is the Italian-built Tranquility node, which is multi-purpose - with storage, berthing and habitation facilities.
With its six side windows and a top window the Cupola gives observers a Millenium Falcon-type view of Earth below.

You wind your way back to Unity then through the truss structure (that supports the solar arrays and the Canadarm2) to the Destiny Laboratory – the primary US research facility. You note the Destiny and Harmony nodes are square, rather than round like the older modules.
Besides velcroing objects to every available “wall” space, the next noticeable thing is the total absence of chairs.
NASA astronauts Ron Garan (bottom) and Cady Coleman, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli (left) and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev, all Expedition 27 flight engineers, pose for a photo in the Harmony node of the International Space Station.
The Harmony node also houses sanitary (yes, that is your toothbrush and toothpaste velcroed to the wall) and exercise facilities. The first expedition of William Shepherd (US), Yuri Gidzenko (Russia) and Sergei Krikalev (Russia) was launched on a Russian Soyuz on October 31, 2000 and returned on the space shuttle Discovery on March 21, 2001. Robonaut 2, or R2, the first humanoid robot to travel to space and the first US-built robot to visit the space station, performs a few finger motion and sensor checkouts aboard the ISS. Chris Cassidy (US), Alexander Misurkin (Russia), and Pavel Vinogradov (Russia), also flight engineers, docked on March 28, this year, replacing then-commander Kevin Ford (US) and flight engineers Oleg Novitskiy (Russia) and Evgeny Tarelkin (Russia). Expedition #35 is an all-male crew, but 31 women have flown to the space station – including Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson, the station’s first female commander. In the 2010 US National Space Policy, the ISS was given additional roles of serving commercial, diplomatic and educational purposes. The ISS has acted as an example and vehicle for international co-operation, but the US has vetoed China’s participation. The first of these, Tiangong-1, is in orbit and has docked with Shenzou-9, but is still to be inhabited. The development of commercial spacecraft also provides a second string to the station’s future. Only time will tell whether the US allows the addition of China and India, Asia’s space-capable nations, to the ISS fraternity. In some people AMD progresses so slowly that people do not notice the change in their vision.
Rugby Sevens serves as the perfect example of how lifelong dedication to a single sport might not be the only pathway to Olympic success.
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It has grown considerably since then and has been continuously inhabited since November 2, 2000. It’s the ninth space station to be inhabited, following the Salyut (and Almaz), Skylab and Mir stations.
Astronauts undergoing long periods of weightlessness – such as in flights to and from Mars – will need to understand the impact of this on their ability to carry out tasks, both routine and emergency.
These include understanding how microgravity effects animal and plant growth, and understanding and developing novel industrial processes. They generate 84 kilowatts of power and have a wingspan of 73 metres, wider than a Boeing 777.
After taking a moment to orient yourself in this weightless environment, you proceed down a circular tunnel to the Zvezda service module. The station orbits Earth every 90 minutes, which means there is a sunrise and sunset every hour and a half. A treadmill, gym and seatless exercise bike are part of the necessary exercise regime to ensure muscle does not waste away in the microgravity environment of the space station.
This is your world for the next six months, all 388 cubic metres of it - about half the interior space of a Jumbo jet. Current commander Chris Hadfield (Canada) and flight engineers Tom Marshburn (US) and Roman Romanenko (Russia) docked on December 21, 2012.
With continued interest from the international community, the space station should continue as a vehicle for fruitful science and demonstration of international co-operation for at least this decade.
SpaceX has demonstrated its capability to deliver cargo and possibly crew to supplement the ageing Russian Soyuz capability.
Each is about the size of a phone booth and have a sleeping bag-type arrangement as well as computer and space for personal effects.

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