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International Space Station

Malavika Vinod Monday, November 28, 2022
International Space Station

The stars twinkled merrily in the pitch dark sky. It was 3.00 am, a few hours before sunrise. Stella looked through her telescope at a slow- moving, bright white dot and at something more, space. She withdrew her eye from her dearest instrument and went back into the dark house. Lighting a candle, she fetched a dark blue, heavily bound book and set it on a desk. Shaking away the layers of powdery dust on it covering the book in years, she opened it and began to read by the flickering, yellow glare.

The International Space Station (ISS)

The International Space Station is a modular space station in low Earth orbit. It is a multinational project, completed with the efforts and hard work of many countries, involving five different space agencies, namely NASA from USA, Roscosmos from Russia, JAXA from Japan, ESA from Europe and CSA from Canada. The station serves as a scientific research laboratory in which researches and examinations are conducted in many fields including astronomy, meteorology and physics. The ISS is also used for testing spacecraft equipment and systems essential for future missions to the other planets in our solar system.

The station is divided into sections- ROS, run by Russia and USOS, operated by the United States as well many other nations. The ISS consists of pressurized habitation modules, structural trusses, photovoltaic solar arrays, thermal radiators, docking ports, experiment bays and robotic arms. As of August 2021, 244 astronauts, cosmonauts, and space tourists from 19 different nations have visited the space station, many of them multiple times; this includes 153 Americans, 50 Russians, 9 Japanese, 8 Canadians, 5 Italians, 4 French, 3 Germans and 1 Brazilian.

The ISS life support system is somewhat same to that of Earth. An Earth-like atmosphere offers benefits for crew comfort, and is much safer than a pure oxygen atmosphere, because of the increased risk of a fire. The crew also has a backup option in the form of bottled oxygen and chemical oxygen generator systems.

There are many people onboard the ISS and here is a brief summary of their typical day.

A day for the crew begins at 06:00 am, followed by after sleep activities and a morning inspection of the station. They then eat breakfast and take part in a planning conference with Mission Control before starting work at around 08:10 am. The first scheduled exercise of the day follows, after which the crew continues work until 1:05 pm. Following a one-hour lunch break, the afternoon consists of more exercise and work before the crew carries out its before sleep activities beginning at 7:30 pm, including dinner and a crew conference. The scheduled sleep period begins at 9:30 pm.

The USOS quarters are private, approximately person-sized soundproof booths. The ROS crew quarters in Zvezda include a small window, but provide less ventilation and sound proofing. A crew member can sleep in a crew quarter in a tethered sleeping bag, listen to music, use a laptop, and store personal items in a large drawer or in nets attached to the module's walls. The module also provides a reading lamp, a shelf and a desktop. It is possible to sleep floating freely through the station, but this is generally avoided because of the possibility of bumping into sensitive equipment.

Most of the food aboard is vacuum sealed in plastic bags. Care is taken that foods do not create crumbs, and liquid condiments are preferred over solid to avoid contaminating the station. Drinks and soups are sipped from plastic bags with straws, while solid food is eaten with a knife and fork attached to a tray with magnets to prevent them from floating away.

The ISS does not feature a shower; instead, crewmembers wash using a water jet and wet wipes, with soap dispensed from a toothpaste tube-like container. Crews are also provided with rinse less shampoo and edible toothpaste to save water. There are also two space toilets on the ISS, both of Russian design.

Space flight is not inherently quiet, with noise levels exceeding acoustic standards.

Using a telescope-mounted camera to photograph the station is a popular hobby for astronomers, while using a mounted camera to photograph the Earth and stars is a popular hobby for crew. Some amateur astronomers also use telescopic lenses to photograph the ISS while it transits the Sun.

Involving five space programs and fifteen countries, the International Space Station is the most politically and legally complex space exploration programme in history. The ISS also has been described as the most expensive single item ever constructed. As of 2010 the total cost was US$150 billion.

Having got all the information she ever needed, Stella shut the book close with a loud, dusty thump. Placing the book back in its place, she gave it a last longing look and left for the beautiful, galactic view outside. Glueing her eye to the telescope again, she sat and stared contentedly at the brightest of her dreams, pondering upon the darkest and most mysterious wonders of our universe.

Malavika Vinod
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