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? 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
Seven different types of launch vehicles needed 136 flights, over 1,000 spacewalk hours, and 159 separate EVAs to build the ISS.
It Gets Computer Viruses Just Like Your Laptop Does
Before the ISS switched from running Windows XP on its computers to running Linux, it fell victim to a malware infection. In 2008, Russian cosmonauts managed to carry infected USB storage devices aboard, spreading computer viruses all over the station, and into ground control computers. NASA described the infection as something that had happened before, but not often.In 2013, ISS was hit by the Stuxnet virus - again, likely brought by Russian cosmonauts.
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 at least $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.