International Space Station, ISS

The International Space Station (ISS) is perhaps the greatest international project of all time. It is a partnership between Europe, the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada. The station is a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in Low Earth Orbit. It orbits at approximately 28 800 km/h, at an altitude of about 400 km, providing the astronauts with 16 sunrises and sunsets each day.

The International Space Station photographed by an STS-130 crew member on space shuttle Endeavour in 2010. Credit: NASA

A unique scientific platform

The almost 400-ton ISS was brought into space piece-by-piece and put together in orbit. The first module was launched in 1998, and the station has been continuously inhabited since November, 2000. It consists of several modules with both living quarters and laboratories, with a pressurized volume comparable to that of a jumbo jet. Normally, the crew consists of six persons.

ISS photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking. Credit: NASA/Roscosmos

Even before the ISS was habitable, research began on this uniqe scientific platform. And in 2011, the main activities shifted from assembly to the full exploitation of the laboratory for scientific research, technology development, space exploration, commerce, and education.