- The International Space Station is the largest single structure humans ever put into space.
- The ISS is in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) about 400 km to 420 km above Earth’s surface.
- Its main construction was completed between 1998 and 2011, although the station continually evolved to include new missions and experiments.
- The ISS includes contributions from 15 nations. NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia) and the European Space Agency are the major partners of the space station who contribute most of the funding; the other partners are the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
- The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
- The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS), which is operated by Russia, and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations.
- Several landmark firsts were recorded onboard the ISS in the last two decades. For instance, in 2018, NASA’s Cold Atom Lab became the first facility to produce the fifth state of matter, called a Bose-Einstein condensate, in space. In 2016, a NASA astronaut was able to sequence DNA in space for the first time.
Why in News?
- The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has successfully launched a Soyuz spacecraft to bring back three astronauts stranded on the International Space Station (ISS) after their Soyuz capsule sprang a coolant leak. The two Russian and an American astronaut will board the empty Soyuz spacecraft to return to Earth.
- The three astronauts reached the ISS last September and their mission was supposed to last for six months but it was prolonged because their return vehicle started leaking coolant in December. The reason for the leak as believed by US and Russian space officials was a micrometeorite that damaged an external radiator.