Orbiting Earth at 17,239 Miles Per Hour: Amazing Scenes from the International Space Station

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Image: Chris Hadfield/NASA
Lake Ontario to Lake Superior, as seen from Earth’s orbit

It floats high above the Earth, soundlessly moving in orbit. To observers on the ground, it looks like a shooting star – albeit one that never burns out and continues from horizon to horizon, disappearing only to reappear (at least to the human eye) at a later date. The International Space Station (ISS) might be viewed as one of mankind’s most impressive accomplishments. After all, it’s able to accommodate men and women for months at a time beyond the atmosphere of the planet we call home.


Image: Chris Hadfield/NASA
An astronaut spacewalks outside the ISS.

The Soviets were the first to put a space station into orbit. Salyut 1 was launched on April 19, 1971 and was soon followed by other Salyut stations – used for both civilian and military purposes (with those of the military type also known as Almaz stations). Then on May 14, 1973 the US launched Skylab. The station remained in orbit until July 11, 1979 when it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and broke into pieces, showering debris over Western Australia. The station’s planned reentry was a media sensation that spawned t-shirts, hats emblazoned with bull’s-eyes, and bets over where and when it would reenter the atmosphere.

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Image: Chris Hadfield/NASA
The Soyuz rocket is taken slowly to the launch pad prior to transporting crewmembers to the ISS.

On February 20, 1986, Russia launched the core of the first modular space station, adding six more modules before it reentered Earth’s atmosphere on April 23, 1996. Named Mir, the now-famous station pioneered the modular launch design. Whereas earlier space stations had been launched into orbit whole, Mir was launched in stages, with further sections added once the core of the station was in place. This not only meant a lighter initial launch load but also allowed for increased adaptability.

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