15 Out-Of-This-World Facts About The International Space Station

What is the International Space Station? Only humanity's largest and most expensive attempt to spend long periods of time in space! As such, it's a technical marvel, featuring sophisticated computers and laboratory instruments, miles of wire, and state-of-the-art accommodations for the crew. What happens on the ISS? What kinds of discoveries are being made up there, and how did it get up there in the first place? What's daily life like for the astronauts? It's time to find out!

The history of ISS is full of stories, from its beginnings featuring dozens of flights just to build it, to the current experiments it runs, to the quirks that each astronaut brings with them into orbit. ISS crew members have done everything from conduct sophisticated research to brew coffee. They've brought international foods, recorded songs, and taken countless pictures (and yes, even selfies). The best part? This has all been done in a spirit of international cooperation unmatched in history.

Here are some cool International Space Station facts, both about the station itself and the astronauts who have spent time on it.


  • It Took 136 Flights To Put It Together

    Needless to say, building something of the size, stature, and ambition of the International Space Station was no easy - or quick - feat. In fact, it took seven types of launch vehicles 136 flights to get it done - not to mention the human tallies of 159 EVAs (extravehicular activities) and more than 1,000 spacewalk hours.

  • It Gets Computer Viruses Just Like Your Laptop Does

    Even the International Space Station isn't immune to technological vulnerabilities - even computer viruses. In 2008, a malware infection hit the ISS after Russian cosmonauts carried infected USB storage devices on board, spreading the infection all over the station and even to ground control. NASA said the virus was not an unprecedented event, but that it was not common.

  • It's The Most Expensive Single Thing Humans Have Ever Made

    Other projects on the whole have cost more money (looking at you, trillion dollar F-35 fighter plane), but the ISS is the most expensive individual object ever made - costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion.

  • Its Crew Has Experimented On Everything From Fire To Zucchini

    ISS is the biggest laboratory in space, allowing astronauts to conduct micro-gravity experiments on a daily basis that would be almost impossible on Earth. Many involve testing the long-term effects of weightlessness, such as Commander Scott Kelly's attempt to spend a full year on the station.

    Other experiments have involved implanting mouse embryos, putting out fire, growing zucchini, keeping detailed journals, using high-tech shoes, and of course, cultivating ant colonies.
  • It Could Fly To The Moon And Back In A Day

    The ISS can't actually fly, being a space station and all, but if it could, the speed at which it circles the Earth (4.7 miles per second) is fast enough to make it to the moon (which orbits around 250,000 miles from Earth) and back again in a 24-hour period - with a bit of time to spare.

  • Russians On Board Choose Not To Drink Recycled Urine

    Because of the weight of transporting water, creative ways had to be found to keep the astronauts hydrated. Hence, urine recycling! The condensed breath, shower runoff, sweat, and urine of the crew and laboratory animals is all filtered and sent back into the station's drinking water supply.

    The Russians have refused to drink recycled urine - leaving more for the Americans, who claim, once recycled, it simply tastes like bottled water.