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ISS August 2005

ISS August 2005 (Space)

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The International Space Station (15 pics) (ISS) is an internationally developed research facility currently being assembled in Low Earth Orbit. On-orbit construction of the station began in 1998 (21 years ago) and is scheduled to be complete by 2011 (8 years ago), with operations continuing until at least 2015 (4 years ago). The station can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, and, as of 2009 (10 years ago), is the largest artificial satellite in Earth orbit, with a mass larger than that of any previous space station. The ISS serves as a long-term research laboratory in space, with experiments including biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology being carried out daily. The station also provides a safe testing location for efficient, reliable spacecraft systems that will be required for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS and its experiments are operated by long-duration Expedition crews, with the station being continuously staffed since the first resident crew, Expedition 1, entered the station on 2 Nov. 2000 (19 years ago). This has provided an uninterrupted human presence in space for the last 8 years and 337 days. As of 2 Oct. 2009 (10 years ago), the crews of Expedition 20 and Expedition 21 are aboard.

The station represents a union of several space station projects, some dating back to the Cold War, including the US Space Station Freedom, the Soviet/Russian Mir-2, the European Columbus and the Japanese Kibō. Budget issues with each station, however, led to the separate projects being merged into a single multi-national space station. The ISS project began in 1994 (25 years ago) with the Shuttle-Mir programme, and the first module of the ISS, Zarya, was launched in 1998 (21 years ago). Assembly has been ongoing ever since, with a complex of pressurised modules, external trusses and other components being launched by US Space Shuttle (8 pics)s, Russian Proton rockets and Russian Soyuz rockets. As of Jul. 2009 (10 years ago), the station consists of ten pressurised modules and an extensive Integrated Truss Structure (ITS). Power is provided by sixteen large solar arrays mounted on the external truss, in addition to four smaller arrays on Russian modules. The station is maintained at an orbit between of 278 km (173 mi) and 460 km (286 mi) altitude, and travels at an average speed of 27,724 kilometres (17,227 mi) per hour, completing 15.7 orbits per day.

The ISS is operated as a joint project between the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). Ownership and utilisation of the station is set out via several intergovernmental treaties and agreements, with Russia retaining full ownership of its own modules, and the rest of the station being allocated between the other international partners. The cost of the station project has been estimated by ESA as €100 billion over a course of 30 years, although cost estimates vary between US$35 billion and US$160 billion, making the ISS the most expensive object ever constructed. This large cost has meant that the ISS programme has been the target of various criticisms over its financing, research capabilities and technical design.

The various sections of the station are controlled by several mission control centres on the ground, including MCC-H, TsUP, Col-CC, ATV-CC, JEM-CC, HTV-CC and MSS-CC. The station is serviced by a wide variety of manned and unmanned spacecraft, including the Soyuz spacecraft, Progress spacecraft, Space Shuttle (8 pics), Automated Transfer Vehicle, and H-II Transfer Vehicle, and has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations.


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