Have you ever dreamed of traveling in space? Well, actually it is possible if you want to be an astronaut and stay in the space station. The space station, also called the International Space Station (ISS) is a microgravity laboratory where six international crew live and work while traveling there. Often described as ‘Man’s Greatest Achievement’, the ISS represents one of the largest cross-national collaborative science, technology and human innovation research which is not possible on earth.
Despite all the great research done at the space station, did you know that there are many interesting facts about this amazing place? Here, we will reveal space station fun facts that you may not know. Get ready to be surprised because these insightful facts will inspire you a lot!
1. Ninety Minutes for A Day
Did you know how long a day is in the space station? In fact, the space station takes only 90 minutes to make an orbit of the earth, with 5 miles per second of speed. Therefore, the space station makes 16 orbits of the earth in 24 hours, traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets
The quick changes of light coming in through the station’s windows definitely will disrupt the astronauts natural day cycle. As sleep is still crucial to ensure normal physical and mental health, astronauts will reduce the blue light exposure before their natural bedtime to get a better night’s sleep. Not to mention, living in the space station also can slow down their age, where after 6 months on the ISS, astronauts are 0.005 seconds younger than people on earth.
2. The Third Brightest Object on Our Night Sky
After the moon and Venus, the ISS is the third brightest object in our night sky during dawn and dusk. If you look closely enough, you will be surprised once your naked eye can even spot the space station like a fast moving airplane. It has a magnificent size of 357 feet long from end to end. Moreover, it weighs about 420,000 kg which represents 320 cars.
Made up of hundreds of major and minor components, the ISS is the largest object ever to be put into space. Moreover, the space station has a pressurized volume of 32,333 cubic feet, the same as a Boeing 747.
3. A Comfortable Space in Space
Since you know how big the space station is, you may be curious about what the ISS offers in space. With approximately 357 feet or 109 meters long, the space station gives astronauts plenty of room to stretch out. It provides two bathrooms on board, one gym, six sleeping quarters and a 360 degree bay window.
Moreover, more than 50 computers with 8 miles of cabling control all the systems on the space station. All astronauts also have laptops, so that they can even connect to the internet to keep in contact with family and friends.
4. Largest International Collaboration
The space station idea came from international partnership among 5 space agencies (United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada) and 16 nations were involved in the construction (The United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom).
Moreover, the construction of the space station which started in 1998 took 10 years and more than 30 missions to assemble. Once the largest space station ever constructed, the ISS continues to be assembled in orbit. The ISS is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted, which have been visited by astronauts from 18 countries and is still counting.
5. The Longest Living Time on Space Station
Maybe you are curious, how long can humans live in the space station? To answer that question, you should know Peggy Whitson, an astronaut who set the record for spending the most total length of time living and working in space at 665 days on 2 September 2017.
Peggy Whitson is American biochemist and astronaut, who was the first female commander of the International Space Station (ISS). On board, she conducted more than 20 experiments in microgravity and human life sciences and also operated and installed commercial payloads and hardware systems, amazing isn’t it?
6. Muscle Lost in Space
Without gravity, your muscles and bones can deteriorate. Therefore, the space station also has a gym, so astronauts can do exercise every day to keep healthy and in good shape. To mitigate the loss of muscle and bone mass in microgravity, the astronauts work out at least two hours a day.
If you are not disciplined with your exercise, you will slowly feel the change to your body such as calluses appear on your feet. Don’t be surprised if the calluses on your feet in space will eventually fall off, so the bottoms of your feet will be as soft as newborn baby feet. However, the top of your feet will be as rough as alligator skin.
7. Six Hours to Launch from The Earth
The space station is an object that flies through space about 250 miles from the earth. Maybe you are wondering how a spacecraft can get there from earth. Well, getting into space is a long and difficult process. It can take anywhere from 6 hours to 3 days to get to the ISS, depending on the spacecraft and mission profile. If you are a space enthusiast, you can check regularly on NASA website to keep updated with the spacecraft launch schedule and its mission.
8. The Home of 3000 Research
As the center of science and technology in space, the ISS has hosted nearly 3,000 research investigations from researchers in more than 108 countries. Moreover, more than 20 different research payloads can be hosted outside the station at once, including earth sensing equipment, materials science payloads, particle physics experiments like the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02 and many more.
Beside astronauts that operate the space station, there are many scientists from other disciplines and fields. They look at the effect of microgravity on the human body, investigate the possibilities for future space travel, and also a wide range of other kinds of important research.
9. Computer Virus on Space Station
You might doubt the fact, but a virus epidemic in the space station does indeed exist! Another space station fun fact that blows your mind, isn’t it? As more than 50 computers control the systems on the space station, an attack from malware viruses can be a problem.
In 2013, 52 computers onboard the ISS were infected by viruses more than once. The first was a worm known as the W32.Gammima.AG, which started spreading by stealing passwords to online video games on earth. The damage done by the malware to the computer systems of the ISS is unknown. Moreover, the security experts said virus epidemics took hold of the space-based computers, including dozens of laptops.
10. A Project Cost Over $120 Billion
Don’t panic to see the numbers, because this huge object is definitely expensive. Did you know that the ISS became the single most expensive object ever built? In order to operate well, the International Space Station costs NASA about $4 billion a year. Moreover, the ISS cost a total of $150 billion to develop and build. Fortunately, in 2020, NASA reported that the Commercial Crew program is estimated to have saved between $20-$30 billion, while funding development of two spacecraft.
11. The Smell of Space
Maybe you can’t imagine what the space station smells like. You can’t smell space directly, because your noses don’t work in a vacuum. However, the ISS is probably one of the only places you can actually smell space.
The former astronauts aboard the ISS have reported that they notice a metallic aroma like the smell of welding fumes in the area where the pressure between the station and other docking crafts is equalized. Moreover, the Rosetta spacecraft also detected compounds responsible for the smell of rotten eggs, bitter almonds and cat urine, boiling off from the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
12. The Electrical System
To perform experiments and safely operate the station, astronauts need an electrical system in the space station. In fact, the electrical systems on the space station include 8 miles of wire, longer than the entire perimeter of New York City’s Central Park.
As sunlight is plenty up there, the ISS electrical system uses solar cells to directly convert sunlight to electricity. The ISS needs around 75-90 kilowatts of power from the solar panels. When the station is in sunlight, about 60% of the electricity that the solar arrays generate is used to charge the station’s batteries. Finally, the solar arrays produce more power than the station needs at one time for the station systems and experiments.
13. How To Eat on Space Station
Did you know that bread is not allowed to be eaten on the space station? As it produces loose crumbs, it can be very dangerous on the ISS. Therefore, food is always eaten on trays that are held in place by magnets. Meanwhile, liquid or drinks come in plastic bags with straws to keep it safe.
Astronauts eat three square meals a day with a balanced diet on the ISS. However, they don’t sit down at all as there are no chairs around the main eating area. Instead, the astronauts simply float and stabilize themselves. They have to be very slow and careful when bringing food to their mouths, so it will not float across the station. Not to mention, all the food is canned, dehydrated, or packaged so it doesn’t require refrigeration.
14. How To Breath on Space Station
Don’t worry about running out of oxygen in the space station, because the ISS has its own system to produce oxygen. Oxygen in the ISS comes from a process called “electrolysis,” which will split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gas using an electrical current generated from the station’s solar panels. The oxygen is vented into the breathable cabin air system, known as the Oxygen Generation System, while the explosive hydrogen is vented externally.
To ensure the air quality on the ISS, the systems must not only supply oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the cabin’s atmosphere. Besides, it also prevents gasses like ammonia and acetone, which people emit in small quantities. Vaporous chemicals from science experiments are a potential hazard too, if they combine in unforeseen ways with other elements in the air supply.
15. The Deorbit Plan
What happens if the space station deorbit? We are aware that the space station has been in low earth orbit over 20 years. However, stuff doesn’t last forever. NASA mentioned that the ISS will be deorbited in 2031, which means they are going to intentionally crash it into the ocean.
Deorbiting it on purpose is one way to make sure it falls into an empty ocean, and not on top of anyone’s house. If we keep the ISS in space, there is a possibility the space station might uncontrollably crash back to the earth, as it stays in low earth orbit which is a temporary location without gravitational interaction with earth.
Finally, that’s all 15 space station fun facts that you probably never know. In fact, the space station is a significant object that plays an important role in science and technology. Whether you are a space enthusiast or not, we hope that these facts will add more insight and knowledge about space.