A brief history of space stations

shuttlelaunch.jpg

Salyut 1, launched in April 1971 by the Soviet Union, was the first space station. Three cosmonauts travelled by spacecraft to Salyut 1, and lived in it for 24 days. Sadly, these cosmonauts died during their return to Earth.

Skylab was the first United States space station, which was launched into space in 1973. A crew of three astronauts performed many scientific experiments while living in the space station, including studying the effects of weightlessness on the human body, observing comets, and repairing damage to the space station. When it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere in 1979, Skylab disintegrated.

The reusable space shuttle was invented to provide a better and less expensive way of travelling to space stations. The first shuttle flight took place on 12 April 1981. Since then, space shuttle astronauts have been trained to build a permanent space station, and have practised on their space missions.

The Russian space station Mir, which means 'peace', was launched in 1986. Two cosmonauts crewed Mir. Together with American astronauts who visited in a space shuttle, they practised for the construction of an international space station. By 1999, Mir was close to the end of its useful life.

The International Space Station

In cooperation with the Russian cosmonauts, American astronauts began work on a permanent space station in 1998. It has been in operation since 1 November 2000.

It is called the International Space station because fifteen nations take part in its programs. It has permanent accommodation for six, and short-term accommodation for up to fifteen when a space shuttle visits.

From the International Space Station (ISS), pieces of which were built in fifteen countries, scientists will conduct research and experiments that are impossible to conduct on Earth.

The purpose of the ISS is to make it possible for long term exploration of space and to allow research into how humans cope living and working off the planet. This research is needed for future human exploration of space. New materials and technology will be tested.

The International Space Station is the largest space project so far undertaken and is the biggest structure ever to orbit the Earth. It is a research facility 400km above the Earth jointly operated by the space agencies of 16 countries:

Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The United Kingdom, The United States

ISSinterior_jup.jpg

It was assembled piece by piece in space, starting with a Russian module put into orbit in November, 1998. The first crew arrived two years later. Over fifty missions were required to assemble the entire thing. The expected life of the International Space Station is ten years.

Astronauts have been on the ISS continuously since November 2000. The long-term crews arrive and leave on Russian Soyuz craft. Until NASA retired its shuttle fleet, they too made trips to the ISS. Each two or three person crew stays on board for up to six months, carrying out experiments and doing maintenance work on the station.

The International Space Station must receive regular supplies from Earth, and resupply vehicles are used. At first the U.S. shuttle and Russian unmanned Progress ships brought all the food, water, air and spare parts that the crews need. However, in March 2008, a new supply vehicle called the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), was launched.

Each ATV will take five days to reach and dock with the ISS, remaining in place for six months. While docked, its engine will fire periodically to keep the ISS at a safe height above Earth’s atmosphere.

At the end of its time at the ISS, the ATV will loaded with up to 6.3 tonnes of rubbish, will undock and leave, after which it will burn up in the atmosphere.

The International Space Station must receive regular supplies from Earth, and resupply vehicles are used. At first the U.S. shuttle and Russian unmanned Progress ships brought all the food, water, air and spare parts that the crews need. However, in March 2008, a new supply vehicle called the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), was launched.

Each ATV will take five days to reach and dock with the ISS, remaining in place for six months. While docked, its engine will fire periodically to keep the ISS at a safe height above Earth’s atmosphere.

At the end of its time at the ISS, the ATV will loaded with up to 6.3 tonnes of rubbish, will undock and leave, after which it will burn up in the atmosphere.

International Space Station (ISS) Facts

  • It weighs about 450 tonnes and is large enough to cover a football field.

  • The cabin size is similar to that of a jumbo jet.

  • In its first ten years of operation, November 2000 to 2010, the space station was visited by 204 people.

  • The ISS has made more than 57,360 orbits of Earth, a total of 1.5 billion miles.

  • There have been 162 spacewalks, a total of 1,021 hours outside the ISS.

Find out more about the International Space Station here.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html#.VE2huCj1t8M

Watch a video showing how astronauts live on the ISS