Astronomy: International Space Station

Table of Contents

The space station operating at an international level, known as ISS, is a partnership operation comprised of several countries with a common objective of conducting space explorations that take place within the Station. ISS mainly focuses on laboratory research which is regarded as among the challenging political as well as technological tasks that has ever been undertaken by humankind.

ISS’s engagements generally assist humanity to have an outward focus which is directed to the heavens. Despite the fact that ISS has achieved a lot in its explorations, its operations have been faced by a wide range of negative critics particularly those regarding the amount of money invested in it.

For instance, countries in US have invested so much money with ISS which some people argue that it is misplaced and could have been invested in more sensible and productive areas.

These critics are accused by ISS supporters for not considering the fact that the more than fifty billion dollars used in space station construction has greatly contributed to upgrading of economic status of countries that took part in its construction. The large sums of money also supported job creation for workers who are highly skilled, particularly US-based engineers. (Branley, 2000)

History of ISS

The ideas concerning space station construction has their history dated back in Civil War era. In nineteen sixty nine, Edward Hale wrote an article called “Brisk Moon: in which he described a satellite that aided navigation in the sea.

This design paved way for NASA, where space station construction would later be conducted. The technology of rocketry experienced great advancements at the peak of Second World War and this was emphasized in nineteen ninety five when Wernher Von, a rocket engineer, moved from Germany to US to assist US army in making of rockets.

It is during rocket construction that he formulated a plan for space station which he described as point from which planet earth can be observed and from which researchers can also conduct laboratory tests. Soviets implemented this idea by launching Sputnik 1, which triggered space competition during Cold War where US was competing with Soviet Union.

This competition is presently replaced by a situation where Soviet Union cooperates very well with US in space explorations conducted through ISS. After competing over the party that would come up with the best model for conducting space explorations, US decided to combine efforts with Soviet Union in order to come up with a very effective model which they referred to as Space Shuttle.

The two parties managed to construct a space shuttle from which they realized that they could as well come up with a Space station. This particular task was founded in nineteen eighty-two, including a proposal welcoming the participation of international parties in construction as well as the development of the Station. (Branley, 2000)

In nineteen eighty five, several countries including Canada and Japan as well as a European based Space Agency signed a memorandum with US where they were supposed to work towards the Station’s construction. It was in nineteen ninety-six when these partners agreed on respective contributions that each party was to make towards the Station’s hardware-specific particulars.

Canada took the role of building a manipulator system which closely resembled another one that it had made for Space Shuttle. Europe combined with Japan to make contributions related to laboratory modules but the three parties did not make formal agreements until the year nineteen eighty eight.

Contributions made by these partners remain intact in the current structure of ISS. In nineteen eighty-eight, the Station was named “freedom” by Ronald Reagan, and he gave the mandate to undertake modifications on its design such that the cost would be considerably reduced. The situation where the US cooperates very well with Russia was reinforced when it decided to purchase Soyuz vehicles from Russia which were to serve as lifeboats.

Those lifeboats still exist within ISS and they are known as Soyuz vehicles for transferring crew members. US government realized that the cost for Space Station construction was still very high and President Clinton ordered for another redesigning. This was to allow for more cost reduction as well as inclusion of more international parties in the stations’ development.

A new design known as Alpha was chosen by NASA in order motivate the teams’ innovation efforts. The newly acquired form of Space Station comprised of hardware designs that were originally designed for “Freedom”, taking a representation of seventy five percent.

Thereafter, Russians supplied major hardware parts with the largest portion being the one that had been designed for another program called Mir 2. This was when the Station was given another name to mark its new structures and design and was called ISS.

Use of the International Space Station

ISS has its main use as facilitation of research as it enables researchers to explore various issues in space and also conduct tests while still in space. A number of fields have been researched upon including physics, biology, and medicine, leading to extensive advances in particular areas.

Researches conducted within ISS create new financial opportunities, including the development of advanced and energy-saving consumer products. Future research practices within ISS promises to deliver more advanced consumer products, including the development of drugs that are more powerful, less toxic, and purer as well.

These drugs are aimed at providing treatment to chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and disorders of the immune system. Research practices conducted within ISS comprise three different research types, including astronomical research, where scientific experiments are conducted.

The creation of crystals as well as pharmaceuticals is among the variety of scientific experiments conducted in ISS, where better kinds are manufactured compared to those manufactured on planet earth. In the creation of crystals, researchers make use of a Bioprocessing Apparatus called CGBA, which serves the purpose of a refrigerator.

This Apparatus stabilizes the temperatures of biological samples enabling researchers to use them for experiments within ISS when they are still fresh. Another special apparatus known as PCG-SITES provides cool temperatures for growing crystals that are selected from microgravity proteins in order to use them for analysis, later conducted on earth.

When protein crystals are preserved in controlled temperatures, they form plants like soybeans, which are normally of a higher quality than other protein plants grown on earth. Research studies conducted on the quality of proteins produced from crystals reveal that the resultant crystals grown onboard have a better structure compared to that of similar crystals grown on earth.

This analysis contributes to a better understanding of proteins, viruses as well as enzymes in their different occurrences that later contribute to the development of drugs as well as a clear understanding of life fundamentals. (Meachen, 2005)

Another research type conducted within ISS is biological research, which mainly deals with the human body and effects that exposure to gravity has on it. When human beings are exposed to low gravity for quite a long period of time, their body muscles tend to weaken, and they develop a situation referred to as atrophy.

The heart system is equally affected where the amount of work conducted by the heart reduces considerably to the point that veins, as well as arteries, are unable to hold and pump enough blood to other body parts. This dysfunction is normally referred to as; reduced functioning of cardiovascular. Bone density of the human body is also affected when bones of human beings are exposed to reduced levels of gravity for long periods.

Bone density reduces to the point that human beings find it hard to support their body weight leading to overall body weakness. Studies on these effects that exposure to low gravity has on human bodies greatly contribute to a clear understanding of the manner in which human systems function as well as ailments that affect human bodies.

ISS also contributes to gravitational biological research by providing a facility that is able to imitate the gravity of the earth. This allows a comparison of different effects taking place on the human body to what could result if the human body was exposed to higher gravity levels. (Clement, 2006)

Research relating to physics is also conducted within ISS, where the manner in which fluids behave when exposed to different gravity levels is studied. When fluids are exposed to low levels of gravity, they experience difficulties changing from a liquid to solid since available temperatures are not favorable for sedimentation. Microgravity also makes it difficult for fluids to flow smoothly, like it is the case on earth.

This behavior by fluids allows researchers to carry out a study on specific forces of gravity that hinder fluids from flowing as usual and also from undergoing sedimentation. This particular kind of research field is called fluid physics, and it is getting a lot of contributions from gravitational studies in relation to fluid behavior.

The manner in which fluids burn is equally affected by exposure to low gravity since convection currents that support burning are reduced by gravity. These are normally the currents necessitating the rise of warm fluids in the form of vapor and sinking of cool fluids on earth. When the currents are reduced, it becomes difficult for fluids to heat since the cycle is not supported.

Physics research studies the relationship between gravity levels and burning, which is also affected by a reduction of convectional currents. The shape of the flame is altered since warm air cannot rise while cool air sinks in order to allow combustion to take place. This gives way for combustion experiments where gravity forces involved in combustion processes are studied, which could not have been possible on earth.

The research field in which these combustion tests are conducted is referred to as combustion science, where a study on molten metals is conducted more thoroughly than it is the case on earth. Researchers conducting physics-related experiments in ISS plan to come up with better structures of metal alloys as well as other control materials like computer chips.

Therefore, a wide range of researches is conducted within ISS, and they have a great contribution to advancements in various scientific fields, including physics, biology as well as medicine. The group of researchers carrying out these researches in ISS are normally referred to as crew members, which is the name given to those people carried by space station at a particular time. (Harvey, 2006)

What It Is Like To Be On the International Space Station

People boarding ISS are normally referred to as crew members, and the current model of ISS has the potential of holding at least three members at a time. In the year two thousand and four, it was predicted that within the period of one decade, partners involved in the construction of ISS would have managed to expand ISS such that it will be able to hold more members.

Among the ISS expansion plans was the deal where space agencies would have come up with an ISS model that would be in a position to hold about six members by the year two thousand and nine. The number of members held by ISS is determined by space available in ISS in order to hold more Soyuz Vehicles.

ISS’s size by the year two thousand and four could only hold three Soyuz vehicles meaning that only three members would be accommodated. The need to include more members in ISS came with extra adjustments, including installation of logistics allowing for more supplies such as water and food to cater to the increased crew. The systems needed to be well fixed to handle more people, which would avoid accidents due to system overloading.

The expeditions taken through ISS take about six months, and they are controlled by various expedition commanders. About twenty expeditions have been taken since ISS began its operations, and up to the sixteenth expedition, the space station was able to accommodate a maximum of three members.

However, there has been a possibility of having six members on board, such as in the sixteenth expedition. The twentieth expedition, which took place in the month of May, the year two thousand and nine, was the first official expedition in which six members were allowed in ISS. (Rycroft, 2000)

ISS makes use of the GMT time zone, which provides it with different time references where time zones have a difference of one hour between each other. This is essential to crew members since they fly to different locations with varying time zones, which are well catered for by GMT.

Crew members ensure that they cover space station’s windows during the night in order to experience darkness like the one experienced on earth during the night. These adjustments are fixed since ISS encounters an extraordinary situation of sixteen sunsets and the same number of sunrises within the twenty-four hours. Crew members begin their day at six o’clock in the morning, where they undertake inspections followed by breakfast at eight o’clock.

The day’s activities pick from there and stop at one in the afternoon for lunch. The day’s activities are ended at seven-thirty in the evening where dinner is taken, followed by an evening conference, after which the crew goes to sleep. (Engelhardt, 1998)


It is clear that; ISS development has taken quite some time in order to acquire its current form. Combined efforts by international partners have greatly contributed to each development. The main purpose of ISS is to allow research activities to be carried out where a number of scientific fields are advanced, including biology, physics as well as medicine.

The model that had been in use for the past years since ISS began its operations had the capability of holding a maximum of three members with the exception of the sixteenth expedition when it carried six members.

Contributions that have led to its expansion have allowed it to carry at least six people from the month of May the year two thousand and nine. More researches, as well as developments, continue to be undertaken in ISS, which greatly contribute to overall scientific knowledge and technological advancements worldwide. (Branley, 2000)


Branley F. (2000): The International Space Station, New York: HarperCollins Publishers pp 14-17

Clement G. (2006): Fundamentals of Space Biology; Research on Cells, Animals, and Plants in Space, Oregon: Springer pp 49-54

Engelhardt W. (1998): The International Space Station: A Journey into Space: Michigan, Tessloff Pub USA Inc pp 37-42

Harvey B. (2006): Space Exploration, Oregon: Springer pp 29-35

Meachen D. (2005): The International Space Station, Minneapolis: Compass Point Books pp 50-54

Rycroft M. (2000): International space station; the next space marketplace, Oregon: Springer pp 20-26

Space Station Costs Come under Fire, retrieved 24 august 2001, from NASA;

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