Context: Russia recently announced that it would be withdrawing from the International Space Station in 2025, and build and manage its own floating laboratory/ Space Station that will be launched into orbit by 2030.
- The station will reportedly orbit the Earth at a higher latitude, enabling it to better observe the polar regions, especially since Russia plans to develop the Arctic sea route as the ice melts.
- Russia has been a crucial player in making the ISS a success, with other space agencies relying on advanced Russian modular space station construction technology to build the space station in the initial years.
- Russia was also indispensable because of its Soyuz passenger vehicle, which served as the only way for transporting astronauts to the ISS ever since the US retired its Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
- This reliance on Russia ended last year, however, when the US started to use the SpaceX system developed by Elon Musk.
- Next year, the US is also expected to have another domestic option apart from SpaceX, as Boeing’s delayed Starliner capsule is expected to become operational.
International Space Station
- The International Space Station (ISS) is the largest single structure humans ever put into space.
- Its main construction was completed between 1998 and 2011, although the station continually evolves to include new missions and experiments.
- The Mir space station of the former Soviet Union, and later operated by Russia, was functional from 1986 to 2001.
- It has been continuously occupied since Nov. 2000.
- Astronaut time and research time on the space station is allocated to space agencies according to how much money or resources that they contribute.
- NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia) and the European Space Agency are the major partners of the space station who contribute most of the funding; the other partners are the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
- The ISSconsists of Canada, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States, and eleven Member States of the European Space Agency (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom).
Finding the space station in the sky
- The ISS, at a height of about 402 km above the Earth (low-earth orbit), orbits it 16 times every day, once every 90 minutes at a speed of 28,000 km per hour. Over a period of 24 hours, the people inhabiting the ISS see 16 sunrises and sunsets.
- The ISS travels at this speed to maintain an orbit around the Earth.
- Orbits are elliptical (oval) in shape, but most spacecraft orbiting Earth travel in orbits that are as close to a circle as possible to keep a constant altitude (height) above the Earth.
- In one day, the station travels about the distance it would take to go from Earth to the moon and back.
- The space station can rival the brilliant planet Venus in brightness and appears as a bright moving light across the night sky.
- If the ISS flies over your location a bit before sunrise or a bit after sunset, for those few minutes, it is usually the brightest object in the sky.
- It can be seen from Earth without the use of a telescope by night sky observers.
- The ISS generally holds crews of between three and six people.
- The ISS is a platform for long-term research for human health, which NASA bills as a key stepping stone to letting humans explore other solar system destinations such as the moon or Mars.
- Note: ISS is the only functional space station at present.