The International Space Station (ISS) will help scientists study the changes in the human body while in space, measure the affects of air pollution, and watch mountains, oceans, hurricanes, and volcanoes.
The ISS will have six state of the art laboratories. We will be able to grow human cells so that we can test new medicines without using them on people.
Who is building the International Space Station?
The United States isnít the only country building the ISS. In fact, there are 16 countries building it: the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada, Brazil, and 11 countries of the European Space Agency (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland).
Canada is building a 55-foot long robotic arm that will be used to build and repair the space station. This robotic arm will be similar to the one Canada built for the space shuttle.
Russia has built Zarya, which is one of two pieces already in space. Zarya provides the power needed during the assembly of the ISS. Once the station is complete, Zarya will be used mostly for storage.
Russia will also build two research modules with life support and habitation systems (where the astronauts will live), an electric power supply, and transport vehicles.
The European Space Agency is building one of the six state-of-the-art laboratories.
Japan does not have its own space agency; it is working with NASA to build another laboratory for the space station.
The United States has already built and sent Unity into space. Unity is the connecting piece of the space station that will allow other pieces to be joined together. It will be a passage from Zarya to other parts of the ISS.
The United States is also building a transport vehicle, the X-38, which will be used as a lifeboat to astronauts if they need to return to earth in an emergency. While it is being built, the space station will use the transport vehicle of the Russian space station, Mir.
The space shuttle Atlantis will deliver the United States Destiny Laboratory Module on February 9, 2001. This piece will be the center of scientific research on the ISS. It will also provide environmental control, life support, and communication systems.
When were the first pieces sent to space?
In May 1999, the first launch was sent up to start building the ISS. Only two pieces are finished and in space so far, Unity and Zarya.
Almost 100 parts are still being built. When they are in space, they will need to be connected to each other. This project is said to be one of the most complex constructions in history!
When will it be complete?
Around 2002, the ISS will be complete. It will be almost 360 feet wide (wider than a football field) and 290 feet long (almost as long as a football field).
It will be four times larger than the Russian space station, Mir. It will be so large that you will be able to see it from Earth without a telescope!
How will they live on the International Space Station?
Scientists and astronauts will be able to live on the space station for months at a time. The ISS will have more than just laboratories; it will also have kitchens, bathrooms, and rooms to sleep in.
The astronauts will sleep in sleeping bags that are connected to the wall. Since there is no gravity in space astronauts are as comfortable sleeping while "standing" up as they are while laying down.
How does space affect the human body?
The human body changes when it is in space. After returning to Earth after long flights, astronauts can have trouble standing and walking. The longest anyone has stayed in space was just over a year. When that astronaut returned to Earth, he needed over 6 months to fully recover.
The gravity on Earth makes our bones and muscles strong, but in space there is no gravity. That means that the heart doesnít have to work as hard, and our muscles become weak because it doesnít take much strength or force to move. Our bones also become weak because our body doesnít get enough calcium. To keep their heart, muscles, and bones strong, the astronauts follow a scientifically planned exercise program while in space.
What about water?
The ISS will have to be as much like Earth as possible. It will need a lot of food, power, and water.
The crew of the space station will have to save water every way possible. Instead of washing their hands at a sink, the crew would have to use a washcloth. They canít take a 50-liter shower; the space station showers will use less than 4 liters! A crew of only four people will still use over 40,000 pounds of water every year!
Transporting water from Earth to the space station will be very expensive. That is one of the reasons that the water on board the space station will have to be recycled.
Did you know that every time we breathe or exercise, we add moisture to the air? Even when we arenít exercising, we sweat, which also adds moisture to the air. This extra moisture will have to be removed from the air of the ISS so that it doesnít collect on the equipment. Too much moisture could also make breathing uncomfortable. This moisture can also be recycled.
A Russian built water-processor that is in orbit collects the moisture in the space stationís air. NASA is also building an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), which will join the ISS in 2005.
The ECLSS will be able to collect water from the crewsí urine, wash water, and the air. It will also get moisture from the research animals on the space station!
That really sounds gross, huh? Well, that recycled water is going to be cleaner and clearer than the water that most people drink on Earth!
There will be 3 steps to purifying the water:
Great International Space Station Videos and More
We found some great websites on the International Space Station. Click on the shuttle to go to Discovery.com or the rocket to go to NASA. Both sites have some great information, pictures, and videos of the International Space Station. When you click on the picture here, a new window will open so you can check out the site. When you're finished, just close the window and you'll come right back here to continue your tour.
Unless otherwise noted, all images courtesy of NASA. Permission for use at http://www.nasa.gov/gallery/photo/guideline.html.
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