March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)

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TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: There have been numerous scientific discoveries on the ISS that have had a direct impact on our everyday lives on Earth.

EXPLANATION

  • More than 140,000 Earth orbits and a quarter century on, the ISS is still a place of peaceful collaboration for science.
  • ISS is one of the world’s most successful locations for international diplomacy, peace and collaboration, even in times of war. It’s literally been a safe space for 25 years.
  • It passes over our heads 16 times every 24 hours — traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets — at an altitude of a mere 430 kilometers (267 miles).

WHEN WAS THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION LAUNCHED?

  • The first segment of the ISS was the Zarya Control Module.
    • It was Russian and launched November 20, 1998.
    • Zarya supplied fuel storage and battery power and served as a docking zone for other space vehicles arriving at the ISS.
  • On December 4, 1998, the US launched the Unity Node 1 module. Together, the two modules were the start of a functioning space laboratory.
  • The large modules and other pieces of the station were delivered on 42 assembly flights, 37 on the U.S. space shuttles and five on Russian Proton/Soyuz rockets.
  • First “live-in” astronauts were Bill Shepherd of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev.

HOW BIG IS THE ISS?:

  • The ISS is split into various spaces for living and working.
  • It has six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym, and a 360-degree view bay window.
  • The space station is 356 feet (109 meters) end-to-end, one yard shy of the full length of an American football field including the end zones.
  • The ISS is shorter than SpaceX’s Starship by 12 meters.
  • Its solar array wingspan is also 109 m.
  • The largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380, has a wingspan of 79.8 meters. And about 13 kilometers of electrical wires run through the space station.

WHAT IS THE ISS’s AVERAGE SPEED?

  • At 17100 miles per hour, the International Space Station (ISS) orbits the earth every 90 minutes.
    • It is a staggering speed, but those inside the ISS get to witness 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day.

WHAT DO ASTRONAUTS DO ONBOARD THE ISS?

  • When they’re not conducting scientific experiments (ones that can’t be done on Earth), ISS astronauts go on regular spacewalks to add new components to the station, such as robotic arms, or run maintenance.
  • There have been times when astronauts have had to inspect or fix holes that were created by space debris.
  • The astronauts are also on a strict health regimen.
  • They have to mitigate the loss of muscle and bone mass, which is caused by microgravity in space.
    • That includes working out on specially designed machines, including treadmills, for at least two hours a day.
  • But as researchers focus more and more on humans living in space.
    • For example, on the moon or Mars, the astronauts’ daily exercise is also used to improve our scientific understanding of the effects of space on our bodies.

WHAT SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES ON THE BENEFITED LIFE ON EARTH?

  • Astronauts have conducted hundreds of scientific experiments on the ISS.
    • Sometimes they experiment on themselves.
    • Monitoring their general health, Nutrition or the effects of solar radiation.
    • And sometimes they conduct experiments for scientists on Earth.
    • These experiments have led to numerous scientific breakthroughs.
  • From Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease to cancer, asthma and heart disease — it’s all been studied in space.
  • According to the scientists, some medical experiments are best done in space because cells behave in microgravity more like they do inside the human body, but it’s difficult to recreate such conditions on Earth.
  • There have been discoveries to benefit drug development, new water purification systems, methods to mitigate muscle and bone atrophy and those that have led innovations in food production.

HOW LONG WILL IT REMAIN OPERATIONAL?

  • Plans for the future operation of the ISS were thrown into uncertainty with the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.
    • Both the European Space Agency(ESA) and national bodies withdrew from international collaborations with Russia, and Russia said it was leaving the ISS to build its own space station.
    • It’s not just the war, though — old and new spacefaring nations want to make an independent mark on space. They include Japan, China, India, the United Arab Emirates and others.
  • The US and Europe have said they remain committed to the International Space Station through 2030.
  • But plans are afoot for a post-ISS world, as well:
    • NASA is almost entirely focused on its Artemis program and plans to populate the moon.
    • And ESA is working toward a new space station, which it is calling Starlab.

Source: 25 years of the International Space Station: Why it was launched, what it does (indianexpress.com)

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