The ISS or International Space Station was built by a collaborative partnership of several countries and space agencies, each contributing to the various modules. The countries responsible are the US, Russia, European Space Agency, Japan and Canada. Additionally, Brazil and Italy provide equipment. The huge space station that orbits earth serves as a laboratory, factory, testing grounds and home for crew members conducting experiments of all types including experiments designed to find out how the human body holds up after spending long periods of time in space. Here are some little-known facts about the ISS that may surprise you.
One of the Costliest Objects Ever Constructed
The cost of the International Space Station is about $100 billion. This puts the ISS among the costliest single objects ever constructed. The United States alone has contributed about half of that cost. To put that cost in prospective, the Large Hadron Collider which is the largest particle collector on earth, located in Switzerland was a good bargain as it cost a mere $9 billion. In addition to being one of the most expensive items every built, the International Space Station also holds the record for being the largest object outside earth to ever be made by mankind.
The Sun Powers the ISS
A surprising fact not many people know is that the International Space Station stays in orbit by obtaining power from the sun. That’s right, solar power is used to generate electricity for the life support systems and scientific equipment on board the ISS. There are four pairs of solar panels on the station that gather rays of sunlight. These panels look somewhat like wings of a bird in flight. They measure 70 meters by 10 meters from end to end and they produce enough energy to power over 5 dozen average sized homes.
Microgravity on the ISS is Hard on Humans
Those people who wish they could join the crew of the ISS in space might want to reconsider because life in space is rough on the body. Astronauts who’ve spent long periods of time on the space station have lost significant amounts of bone mass and strength, up to a few percent each month due to living in microgravity. There are exercise devices onboard the astronauts usedto counteract the negative effects being in space have on their bodies which includes a treadmill.
The ISS is Visible from Earth
Because the space station is only about 245 statute miles from earth, it is entirely possible to see it with the naked eye. You just need to know when it will be passing over your area and where to look for it in the skies. When viewed from earth, the ISS looks like a very fast moving, bright star so it’s easy to mistake it for a jet. However, there are no flashing lights on the ISS and it is much brighter than any aircraft as it glides across the sky.
More Livable Space than the Average Size Home
The ISS spans the area of an entire football field with the end zones and weighs in at over 827,000 pounds. The space station has more livable room than a standard, five bedroom home. There are two bathrooms and a gym on board but no bedrooms. Instead, each of the six permanent astronauts on the ISS has his own closet-sized cabin where he can hook up a sleeping bag to the wall and settle in for the night.
These facts about the ISS are both impressive and awe-inspiring. All types of people not lucky enough to orbit the earth on the space station ranging from technical experts like those working at CTAerospace.com to the aspiring private pilot find these tidbits of information nothing short of amazing.
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Peter Gruseck writes about science and technology.