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International Space Station Print
February 2012
First posted in February 2012

The International Space Station (ISS) gained orbit as early as November 1998 and has been manned since 2000.   The crew has included female and we should read the word man as an abbreviation for human.  ISS is constructed in such a way as for facilitating a Lego style growth.  The current size is a lot bigger than what it was in 1998 or any time in between.  It is as large as a football field and is visible to the naked eyes in the night sky.   A Dutch photographer (Ralf Van de Bergh) used a telescope and captured a beautiful view of ISS as a flying object in the sky 386KM above Earth moving at a speed of over 32 thousand KPH in July 2011.  The photo shows the solar panels of ISS which provide most of the physical size as well as all the electrical power needed for running 52 computers inside the station.  The photo also shows a cargo delivery ship in the background just minutes before it docked with the station.  ISS consists of modules and the modules can join together like Lego.  One module can connect to 6 other modules- front, rear, and 4 on the cylindrical face. 

The station accommodates 6 crew members at any one time and they are transferred to and back Earth in batches of 3.  The last batch on board arrived in December 2011 and the previous batch will be replaced in March 2012.  Over 200 persons have lived in the station since its launch and they are scientists and not tourists.  These people have been doing all sorts of researches and experiments in this very unique and special environment to extend the frontier of human knowledge.  There are 5 bedrooms in the station and this leads us to think that at least 1 crew member has to stay working at any one time.  The station has a dome with 360 degrees of views and presumably watching the outside space qualifies work.   However, the station flies so fast that it takes only 90 minutes to do one lap around Earth and as such every alternate block of 45 minutes is in darkness.  Night views of the Earth are in fact glamorous.  There is a gymnasium in the station for human to stay fit for returning to Earth.  The total pressurized volume is about that of a Boeing 747 which indeed is spacious for 6 persons.  Do not forget about instruments, equipment and computers on board!

The station is a joint effort of NASA of USA, ESA of Europe, and a host of other countries.  Components of the station were manufactured in different locations on Earth, brought up to the station by different delivery vehicles, and assembled by different people at different times.   We talk about working in space 400KM above Earth (for reference Mt Everest is 8KM).  Imagine astronauts repairing or fixing the station outside the station in space and that a slip of any sort is forever!  This space station is a most significant and exciting achievement of mankind in our history.

Whilst a cargo delivery vehicle was about to reach the station, a NASA astronaut (Douglas Wheelock) noted that the most valuable cargo was fresh fruits and vegetables.   This is a most valid and appreciated reminder from one of our most privileged mankind colleagues.


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