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

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Image: Chris Hadfield/NASA
A shadow and cloud left by the Soyuz in the sky over Baikonur in Kazakhstan

On November 20, 1998, the first part of the ISS, named Zarya, was launched using a self-guiding Russian Proton rocket. Unlike previous space stations, it was put together by an international partnership, comprising the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe. And this collaboration of nations in the name of science might be considered almost as great an achievement as the space station itself.


Image: Chris Hadfield/NASA
In the foreground is the Soyuz rocket that flew the crew to the ISS; behind it is the Progress, an expendable freighter craft that was later un-docked and burnt up.

Other than the ISS module Rassvet, the Russian modules of the ISS were all launched and docked robotically. The other modules required hands-on installation and were sent with crewmembers on board a space shuttle. The modules that make up the station include laboratories, living quarters, a panoramic control tower and docking ports.

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Image: Chris Hadfield/NASA
Canadarm2, part of the Mobile Servicing System, reaches out to catch the Dragon spacecraft.

The ISS is larger than a roomy five-bedroom house. It is 356 feet (109 meters) wide and 290 feet (88.3 meters) long. It weighs roughly 1,040,000 pounds (471,736 kilograms) and includes a solar array measuring 239.4 feet (73 meters) in length. Fifty-two computers are used to control the station’s onboard systems, and eight miles of wire link up its electrical power setup. The assembly and maintenance of the station is facilitated by the robotic Mobile Servicing System, which can handle weights of up to 220,000 pounds (99,790 kilograms) – roughly the weight of a space shuttle orbiter.

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