The International Space Station is a man-made, habitable satellite that has orbited Earth for almost 15 years. Construction began in 1998 when pieces of the preassembled ISS were delivered to space via the space shuttle and attached in orbit.
Expanded over the next two years, the ISS became completely functional in 2000 as a research lab. An international crew of up to seven astronauts from five space agencies conducts experiments in biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other scientific fields.
• 357 feet: The length of the ISS.
• 924,739 pounds: How much the ISS weighs.
• 17,100 miles per hour: How fast the ISS travels.
• 214: Number of people who have visited the ISS.
• 15.7: Number of times the ISS orbits the Earth each day.
• 8 miles: Length of wire used to connect the ISS electrical power system.
• The ISS orbits Earth at an altitude of 205 to 255 miles.
• $150 billion: The cost of the ISS, making it the most expensive single item ever built.
It’s a Green Machine
Although it’s one of mankind’s riskiest, priciest and most challenging endeavors, the ISS is also one of our greenest ideas. It gets all of its electricity from solar power. It’s equipped with eight solar wings, each covered in almost 33,000 solar cells.
Speaking of Green
NASA will soon start growing vegetables in space. The Vegetable Production System program will send astronauts to the ISS to grow six romaine lettuce plants, which means astronauts will farm food in space for the first time in history.
Spot the Station
Want to see the ISS for yourself? The ISS is the third-brightest object in the sky and can easily be spotted with the naked eye. You just have to know when and where to look. Visit spotthestation.nasa.gov to learn when the ISS will be flying over your neck of the woods.