International Space Station
The Biggest Man Made Object In Space
by Colm J. Cannon, Space Flight Correspondent
The International Space Station (ISS) is a research facility currently being assembled in space. The station is in a low Earth orbit and can be seen from earth with the naked eye: its altitude varies from 319.6 km to 346.9 km above the surface of the Earth (approximately 199 miles to 215 miles). It travels at an average speed of 27,744 km (17,240 miles) per hour, completing 15.7 orbits per day. The ISS is a joint project between the space agencies of the United States (NASA), Russia (RKA), Japan (JAXA), Canada (CSA) and several European countries (ESA).
The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB, Brazil) participates through a separate contract with NASA. The Italian Space Agency similarly has separate contracts for various activities not done in the framework of ESA’s ISS works (where Italy also fully participates). China has reportedly expressed interest in the project, especially if it is able to work with the RKA.
The Chinese have not been invited to become involved, however. The ISS is a continuation of what began as the U.S. Space Station Freedom which after several financial “problems” was eventually cancelled in the early 1990’s. The overall Space Station project was eventually combined with several other previously planned space stations: Russia’s Mir 2, the planned European Columbus and the Japanese Experiment Module. The projected completion date is 2010, with the station remaining in operation until around 2016, possibly much longer. As of 2007, the ISS is already larger than any previous space station.
The first section, the Russian Zarya module was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the 20th November 1998. It was followed on the 4th December that year when the Shuttle Endeavour carried the Unity Node 1 module into orbit and connected it to Zarya two days later. Constructed has continued apace since then apart from a brief period following the loss of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
The ISS has been continuously inhabited since the first resident crew entered the station on November 2, 2000, thereby providing a permanent human presence in space. The crew of Expedition 15 are currently aboard. The station is serviced primarily by Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and by the three surviving U.S. Space Shuttle orbiters Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. At present the station has a capacity for a crew of three. Early crewmembers all came from the Russian and U.S. space programs. German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter joined the Expedition 13 crew in July 2006, becoming the first crewmember from another space agency. The station has, however, been visited by astronauts from 14 countries, and the Expedition 16 crew will include members from all five space agencies that form the ISS partnership. The ISS was also the destination of the first five space tourists who each paid up to $20 million for the privilege.
I.S.S. crosses the sky each night FOR ONLY ONE OR TWO MINUTES and can be seen by anyone with ordinary eyesight as an EXTREMELY BRIGHT star-like object, high overhead. “It’s an amazing sight” said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland’s magazine “Astronomy Ireland”.
The Station can be up to 100 times BRIGHTER than even the brightest stars in the sky, so it is a wonderful sight to the naked eye.
ISS is also THE most expensive object every built by mankind. If the Shuttle fleet had completed it in a couple of years time it would have cost an estimated 100 billion dollars! So this is a unique object to go out and watch each evening