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International Space Station, 25 years of History and Future

Context: 20th November marked the 25th anniversary of the launch of the International Space Station (ISS), the largest man-made object in the solar system.

The International Space Station (ISS) silently orbits Earth 16 times every 24 hours, navigating through 16 sunrises and sunsets at an altitude of 430 kilometres. While visible from the ground, the ISS often operates in the background, its scientific endeavours overlooked. Over its 25-year history, the ISS has become a symbol of international collaboration, providing a secure haven even in times of global turmoil. Housing a myriad of scientific discoveries, it remains a beacon of progress and diplomacy, shaping our understanding of space and life on Earth.

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International Space Station (ISS)

The International Space Station (ISS), Earth’s largest artificial object and premier low Earth orbit satellite, orbits our planet, regularly visible to the naked eye. Housing astronaut and cosmonaut crews, it was meticulously designed between 1984 and 1993, launching on November 20, 1998. A collaborative effort, the ISS was crafted by NASA, engaging five international space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). Positioned at an altitude of 408 km, it maintains an orbit speed of 7.66 km/s, achieving a maximum speed of 28,000 km/h.

Aspect Details
Type Low Earth Orbit Satellite
Launch Date November 20, 1998
First Module Zarya Control Module (Russian)
Function of Zarya Fuel storage, battery power, docking zone
Unity Node 1 Launch Date December 4, 1998
Collaborating Agencies NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, CSA
Assembly Flights 42
Initial Inhabitants Bill Shepherd (NASA), Yuri Gidzenko, Sergei Krikalev (Roscosmos)
Continuous Inhabitation Yes

When did the International Space Station Launch?

The inaugural part of the ISS, the Zarya Control Module, lifted off on November 20, 1998, marked by Russian involvement. Zarya played a pivotal role, providing fuel storage, and battery power, and serving as a docking zone for incoming space vehicles.

A month later, on December 4, 1998, the United States contributed to the ISS with the launch of the Unity Node 1 module. These two modules laid the foundation for a fully operational space laboratory.

Through 42 assembly flights, the ISS underwent a transformation into its current state. Among the first resident astronauts was Bill Shepherd from NASA, alongside Roscosmos cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev. From that point forward, the ISS has remained continuously inhabited.

International Space Station Orbit

Aspect Details
Orbit Type Low Earth Orbit
Altitude Approximately 408 kilometers
Orbit Speed 7.66 kilometres per second
Maximum Speed 28,000 kilometres per hour
Orbital Period Approximately 90 minutes per orbit
Visible from Earth Yes

International Space Station: Collaborative Construction

Joint Endeavor: The International Space Station (ISS) is a collaborative venture, uniting space agencies globally, including NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

Assembly in Orbit: Initiated in 1998, construction involves launching modules from diverse nations, assembled seamlessly in orbit. These modules collectively form a multifunctional structure, featuring living quarters, laboratories, and docking ports.

International Space Station: Structural Design and Operations

Dimensions and Amenities: With a sprawling 109-meter (357 feet) span, the ISS boasts six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym, and a panoramic 360-degree view bay window. Its solar array wingspan aligns with its overall length.

Habitat and Residential Spaces: Designed to accommodate astronauts and cosmonauts, the ISS serves as both a habitat and workplace. It provides essential living quarters, workspaces, and life support systems crucial for prolonged space missions.

Scientific Laboratories and Exploration: Functioning as a state-of-the-art research laboratory, the ISS facilitates experiments spanning biology, physics, astronomy, medicine, and material sciences. Leveraging the unique microgravity environment, it stands as a pinnacle for scientific exploration and discovery.

International Space Station: Scientific Impact

Aboard the ISS, astronauts have undertaken extensive scientific experimentation, conducting studies that range from monitoring their own health and nutrition to investigating the effects of solar radiation. These experiments extend to benefiting both space exploration and life on Earth, leading to numerous breakthroughs.

Innovative Scientific Inquiries in Microgravity

Aboard the ISS, astronauts have undertaken extensive scientific experimentation, conducting studies that range from self-examination, and monitoring general health and nutrition, to investigating the effects of solar radiation. These experiments, surpassing the hundreds, have been pivotal in yielding numerous breakthroughs.

Microgravity Insights in Medical Research

From ailments like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, asthma, to heart disease, the microgravity environment of space serves as an ideal setting for medical exploration. Scientists assert that certain experiments are most effectively conducted in space, as cells behave in microgravity more akin to conditions within the human body, a challenging replication on Earth.

Revolutionizing Technologies for Earth and Beyond

The outcomes of these experiments have reverberated beyond the bounds of space, benefiting drug development, introducing new water purification systems, devising methods to counteract muscle and bone atrophy, and inspiring innovations in food production. The ISS stands as a unique laboratory, offering insights that reshape our understanding of health, technology, and sustainable living.

How long will the ISS be operational?

The International Space Station’s (ISS) future hangs in uncertainty due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. Both the European Space Agency and national bodies withdrew from collaborations with Russia, prompting Russia’s decision to exit the ISS and create its space station. Beyond geopolitical conflicts, nations like Japan, China, India, and the United Arab Emirates seek independent space exploration. While the US and Europe affirm commitment until 2030, plans for a post-ISS era are underway. NASA focuses on the Artemis program for lunar exploration, and ESA endeavours to establish a new space station named Starlab, signalling a transformative chapter in space exploration.

Indian Space Station

India aims to establish an independent space station, with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) set to present the details to the government post the Gaganyaan Mission. Envisioned to weigh 20 tonnes, the proposed space station is designed as a habitat for astronauts, accommodating stays of 15-20 days. Positioned in orbit at 400 km above Earth, this ambitious project signifies India’s aspirations to have a dedicated facility in space for scientific research and manned space missions, marking a significant stride in the country’s space exploration endeavours.

Future of International Space Station

Amidst the uncertainties spawned by the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2022, the future of the ISS remains questionable. Various nations, including Japan, China, and India, are actively pursuing autonomous space capabilities as part of their global space ambitions. In contrast, the United States and Europe affirm their commitment to the ISS, pledging support until 2030. NASA directs its attention towards lunar exploration, while the European Space Agency (ESA) dedicates efforts to constructing the Starlab space station. These divergent trajectories underscore the evolving landscape of international space collaboration and the dynamic nature of ongoing space exploration endeavours.

International Space Station (ISS) UPSC

The International Space Station (ISS), orbiting Earth at 430 km, symbolizes 25 years of global collaboration and scientific progress. Launched in 1998, it involves NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA. Its multifunctional design spans 357 feet, housing laboratories and living quarters. Astronauts conduct groundbreaking experiments, impacting medical research and technological advancements. Amid geopolitical uncertainties, the US and Europe commit to the ISS until 2030, while other nations pursue independent space ventures. NASA eyes lunar exploration, and ESA plans the Starlab space station. The future of the ISS remains uncertain, reflecting evolving dynamics in international space endeavours.

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International Space Station FAQs

What is the International Space Station (ISS)?

The ISS is a collaborative space project involving NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA. It's a habitable artificial satellite, orbiting Earth at 430 km.

How many International Space Station are there in the world?

As of 2023, there are two operational space stations in low Earth orbit (LEO): International Space Station (ISS), China's Tiangong Space Station (TSS)

In which orbit is the International Space Station?

The International Space Station (ISS) is in low Earth orbit. It's the largest modular space station in this orbit.

What is ESA's next space station project?

ESA is working toward a new space station named Starlab. Why conduct experiments on the ISS?

Microgravity conditions on the ISS provide insights into various scientific fields, including medicine and technology.

What are NASA's plans after the ISS?

NASA is focusing on lunar exploration through the Artemis program.

NASA is focusing on lunar exploration through the Artemis program.

About the Author

Greetings! I'm Piyush, a content writer at StudyIQ. I specialize in creating enlightening content focused on UPSC and State PSC exams. Let's embark on a journey of discovery, where we unravel the intricacies of these exams and transform aspirations into triumphant achievements together!

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