THE CONTEXT: Pirs, a Russian module on the International Space Station (ISS) used as a docking port for spacecraft and as a door for cosmonauts to go out on spacewalks, was on July 26 detached from the 22-year-old floating laboratory.
- In its place, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos will be attaching a significantly larger module called Nauka, which will serve as the country’s main research facility on the space station.
- It is a path breaking collaborative effort between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada).
- Nauka, which was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 21 using a Proton rocket, is scheduled to be integrated with the ISS on July 29.
- Nauka — meaning “science” in Russian — is the biggest space laboratory Russia has launched to date, and will primarily serve as a research facility.
- It is also bringing to the ISS another oxygen generator, a spare bed, another toilet, and a robotic cargo crane built by the European Space Agency (ESA).
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH GOES ON AT THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION?
- A space station is essentially a large spacecraft that remains in low-earth orbit for extended periods of time.
- It is like a large laboratory in space, and allows astronauts to come aboard and stay for weeks or months to carry out experiments in microgravity.
- For over 20 years since its launch, humans have continuously lived and carried out scientific investigations on the $150 billion ISS under microgravity conditions, being able to make breakthroughs in research not possible on Earth.
- As per NASA, 243 people from 19 countries have so far visited the ISS.
- The floating laboratory has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas, carrying out cutting edge research in various disciplines, including biology, human physiology, and physical, material and space science