In depth: ISS has competed 20 years in space, and we are still amazed!
It’s been 20 years since the International Space Station was launched in space and has been orbiting the earth. This artificial satellite has helped astronomers and researchers explore new vistas of the universe, while also making us understand the future of humankind in outer space. Let’s read more astounding facts about the ISS.
- The ISS is a collaboration between 25 space agencies and organisations. It has hosted 241 crew and a few tourists from 19 countries. This is 43% of all the people who have ever travelled in space.
- Sixteen nations were involved in the construction of the ISS: The United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
- The first space station was the USSR’s Salyut 1 in 1971, followed by another six stations in the Salyut programme over the next decade. The US launched its first space station, Skylab, in 1973. All of these were tube-shaped structures.
- The Soviet station Mir, launched in 1986, was the first to be built with a core to which other modules were added later. Mir was still in orbit when the first modules of the International Space Station were launched in 1998.
- Mir was brought down in 2001, and broke up as it plummeted through the atmosphere. What survived likely ended up under 5,000 meters of water at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
- The ISS now consists of 16 modules: four Russian, nine US, two Japanese, and one European. It’s the size of a five-bedroom house on the inside, with six regular crew serving for six months at a time.
- There are only two bathrooms on the entire station. The urine of both the crewmembers and laboratory animals is filtered back into the station’s drinking water supply, so at least the astronauts will never get thirsty.
- Oxygen in the ISS comes from a process called “electrolysis,” which involves using an electrical current generated from the station’s solar panels to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gas.
- Crews have conducted more than 227 spacewalks to build and maintain the space station — including the first all-female spacewalk in 2019 by NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir.
- Currently, the ISS is the third brightest object in the night sky after the moon and Venus.
- The ISS is massively expensive to run. NASA’s costs alone are US$3-4 billion a year, and many argue it’s not worth it. Without more commercial investment, ISS may be de-orbited in 2028 and sent to the ocean floor to join Mir. The ISS is the single most expensive object ever built. The cost of the ISS has been estimated at over $120 billion.