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International Space Station

ISS is a large spacecraft which can house astronauts. It goes around in low Earth orbit at approximately 400 km distance.

International Space Station

ISS is a large spacecraft which can house astronauts. It goes around in low Earth orbit at approximately 400 km distance. It is also a science laboratory. Its very first part was placed in orbit in 1998 and its core construction was completed by 2011. It is the largest man-made object in space which can also be seen from the Earth through the naked eye. The first human crew went to the ISS in 2000. Ever since that, it has never been unoccupied by humans. At any given instant, at least six humans will be present in the ISS. According to the current plan ISS will be operated until 2024, with a possible extension until 2028. After that, it could be deorbited, or recycled for future space stations.


1. Purpose of International Space Station

The ISS is intended to act as a scientific laboratory and observatory. Its main purpose is to provide an international lab for conducting experiments in space, as the space environment is nearly impossible to reproduce here on Earth. The microgravity environment present in the ISS provides ideal conditions for doing many scientific researches especially in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology.


2. Benefits of ISS

According to NASA, the following are some of the ways in which the ISS is already benefitting us or will benefit us in the future.

Supporting water-purification efforts

Using the technology developed for the ISS, areas having water scarcity can gain access to advanced water filtration and purification systems. This could very well be a life-saving difference for the people in such hazardous locations. The water recovery system (WRS) and the oxygen generation system (OGS) developed for the ISS have already saved a village in Iraq from being deserted due to lack of clean water.

Eye tracking technology

The Eye Tracking Device, built for a microgravity experiment, has proved ideal to be used in many laser surgeries. This device tracks the eye’s position very accurately without interfering with the surgeon’s work. Also, eye tracking technology is helping disabled people with limited movement and speech. For example, a kid who has severe disability in body movements can use his eye-movements alone and do routine tasks and lead an independent life.

Robotic arms and surgeries

Robotic arms developed for research in the ISS are providing significant help to the surgeons in removing inoperable tumours (e.g., brain tumours) and taking biopsies with great accuracies. The same technology designed for huge robotic arms that help astronauts in space is being brought back to Earth to do some heavy lifting in cancer treatment - in the form of a surgical robot. Its inventors say that the robot could take biopsies with remarkable precision and consistency.

Apart from the above-mentioned applications there are many other ways in which the researches that take place in the ISS are helpful. They are: development of improved vaccines, breast cancer detection and treatment, ultrasound machines for remote regions etc,.


3. ISS and international ­ cooperation

As great as the ISS’ scientific achievements are, no less in accomplishment is the international co-operation which resulted in the construction of the ISS. An international collaboration of five different space agencies of 16 countries provides, maintains and operates the ISS. They are: NASA (USA), Roskosmos (Russia), ESA (Europe), JAXA (Japan) and CSA (Cananda). Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK are also part of the consortium. In fact, in the late 1950s, the idea of international space missions was unthinkable. The first part of the ISS was launched by the Russian Zarya module, which was funded by America. The first crew sailed on board was Russian Soyuz spaceship. Even as the ISS has sections split into US Orbital Segment, Russian Orbital Segment etc., on the whole it is jointly-owned by all the participating agencies and their nations. Cooperative international agreements between the world powers have made the largest international scientific undertaking a possibility. The many significant researches and functions of the ISS could only have been possible with the full co-operation of these nations.


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