What's happening on the space station?
January 31st, 2013
11:32 AM ET

What's happening on the space station?

By Zaina Adamu, CNN

High above us, beyond the skies, is the International Space Station, which weighs nearly 1 million pounds and has a wingspan the length of a football field. It has nine rooms, two bathrooms, two kitchens and two mini-gyms, and it is the largest spacecraft orbiting the Earth.

NASA announced this week that an instrument called ISS-RapidScat will be launched to the station in 2014 to improve weather forecasts, by doing things like monitoring hurricanes. It will also help scientists explore the Earth's global wind field; tropical clouds and tropical systems are affected by wind variations caused by the sun.

Another experiment on board is called InSPACE, which stands for "Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates From Colloidal Emulsions." All that means that scientists are studying magnetorheological fluids, which are complex substances that change form or harden when exposed to magnetic fields. These substances could one day be useful in robots, NASA says, acting as a "blood" to make the movement of joints and limbs like that of a living creature.

Its mission is multifaceted.  One of the space station's main goals is to find ways to extend the length of time a human can survive in space. Other experiments include growing cells where there is no gravity and observing bodily fluid changes in different atmospheres. In 2003, scientists aboard the station studied the behavior, mating activity and irregular motility responses of young flies they brought with them from Earth.

“The International Space Station is the most complex scientific and technological endeavor ever undertaken,” according to a NASA statement.

To lighten things up a bit (let's not forget the ISS is the astronauts' workplace and their home), astronauts periodically capture breathtaking aerial views of the Earth, which they send back down to earthlings via Twitter. Recently, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield did a video while on the space station about cutting your nails when there's no gravity.

It was former President Ronald Reagan who pushed the idea of a manned space station in Earth’s orbit. In what he called a “new frontier” at his 1984 State of the Union address, he acknowledged that “(t)he Space Age is barely a quarter of a century old. But already we’ve pushed civilization forward with our advances and technology. Opportunities and jobs will multiply as we cross new thresholds of knowledge and reach deeper into the unknown.”

Sixteen years later, the U.S. partnered with Russia, Canada, Japan and several European countries to launch the space station. Since it arrived in orbit, over 200 humans have visited the station.

None of the space agencies involved with the space station has confirmed exactly when it will deorbit, though some agencies hint that it may end some time after 2020. When the space station is decommissioned, it will likely drop from space into its new home - the Pacific Ocean.

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space • News
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. viajes a la riviera maya

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    May 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  2. nomobo

    Let's see, we went from zero-to-the- moon (1957 – 1969) in twelve years. Transistor technology was fairly recent. The integrated circuit was in its infancy. Now, 44 years later, NASA says it will take 20 years just to go BACK to the moon? Can you say "job security?"

    April 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  3. ofertas a cancun solo hoteles bahia principe

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    March 17, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  4. widescreen wallpapers

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    February 13, 2013 at 1:23 am |
  5. Is j being censored on CNN, multiple comments never posted par let's golf

    Space: 1999 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space:_1999 Picture format, Film (35 mm) ... Space: 1999 is a British science-fiction television series that ran for two seasons and ... The force of the blast propels the Moon like an enormous booster rocket, hurling...

    You don't need to go around the earth and round the moon to get to the moon.
    Did anyone at light years watch this?

    February 4, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  6. wranglerick

    After all the science stuff is complete why not make it into a tourist stop. Train regular ( very rich folks ) to handle takeoffs and landings and them up there. It's been done already so why not continue it. The money from that could be used for another project.

    February 4, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  7. Rufus

    I love NASA and would support them no matter what project they wish to start.In my opinion,they are the only organization,both public or private that is doing good things for humanity as a whole.

    February 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  8. ed

    I remember the discussions we had in the seventies over building the space platform. Started this idea long before Reagan. The idea was to repair satellites. Satellites last three years, with the space platform that life would be extented to thirty. But with the internet that isn't needed. We might use robots to go to Mars, maybe We'll just stay here. Sorry gotta go.

    February 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  9. Equorial

    Well then, if it's going to re-enter sometime after 2020, let's put as many elected officials into the thing prior to that date and thus end a large percentage of our present headaches. How many will that thing hold?

    February 3, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  10. Equorial

    I am willing to bet that the Navy SEABEE's, if they were given this space station, could easily convert it into something none of us can yet imagine, and I'll bet they could do it in record time. I think this would be money well spent as opposed to them building run-ways for jets/planes for use in war zones. And, remember it would only take one tiny tank of compressed air to push the ISS further out than she presently orbits, (...'for every force there is an opposite and equal reaction'), and then the same amount of 'force' would halt the outward motion when it was 'safe' from hitting the outer atmosphere, and it would NOT tear the thing apart (since it would barely be moving with regard to velocity). Hey, it beats watching it burn all to hell upon re-entry doesn't it? Isn't it a fact that the space shuttle has "reset" dozens of communication satellites using the same techniques I am implying? Yes, they have. So, it is indeed possible to "thrust it back out there where she's safe." (But, that doesn't fit their "agenda" you see....).

    February 3, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  11. Gerard Haughey

    Obadiah 1:4 Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down," declares the LORD.

    February 3, 2013 at 3:06 am |
    • j

      Obadiah 1:15,16 – The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head. Just as you drank on my holy hill, so all the nations will drink continually; they will drink and drink and be as if they had never been.

      February 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  12. silly

    ION Drive?

    February 2, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  13. Zoglet

    Calling it the "space station" is a stupid name. No trains stop there at all!

    February 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Equorial

      Whatever you say Master. It has now been renamed, "THE MONEY PIT" (and to top it off, after dumping billions into it they are truly going to allow it to reenter earths atmosphere and crash someplace into the ocean. Why not drag it out a few more miles and make it last and last, getting bigger and bigger, until one day it is a "Money Pit InterStellar Bus?" Otherwise, there is no reason to keep pouring funding into something they fully intend to allow to burn up upon re-entry. (or will it then become the largest undersea "Money Pit Busless Building"?

      February 3, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • ChrisP

        So what you are implying is that we should never build anything that has an operational lifetime? You know, like planes, bridges, buildings of any kind...
        Here is a newsflash for those of you who wonder why eventually they are going to let the space station de-orbit: Materials age! At some point, the cost of repairing aging parts of the station, combined with the regular cost of maintaining the current orbit, becomes unpalatable to those responsible for the station's funding. Moreover, the station takes up a significant chunk of the US budget allocated to NASA ($2.8 billion in 2012, $3.5 billion and greater for the the 2013 budget, out of a total $18 billion for each year), and at some point, the returns from the research produced at the station will no longer warrant the cost.
        This does not mean that the space station is a waste of money, but rather that it doesn't make sense for the station to be kept orbiting even after there is either a newer platform for microgravity research, or even lacking one, when the cost of maintenance becomes to unpalatable. In the meantime, however, the ISS remains the best way for us as a species to expand our understanding of the stresses (both physical and emotional) that extended space missions wrack on both ourselves and our technology.

        February 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  14. dotheflippin'math

    I can't believe the idiotic posts. You can't just stick a couple of (extra) thrusters/rocket engines on the ISS, and "land it" on the moon or Mars. First off, acceleration requires force. The ISS is not designed to be "flown" nor landed. To get to the moon required a massive launch vehicle to leave the atmopshere and accelerate towards the moon. The gravity of the moon was used to help accelerate the apollo capsules towards the moon, and then to slingshot them back to Earth. The moon and Mars both have gravity of their own (as does all matter). Look at the tricks used to put the latest Mars rover gently onto the ground. How are you going to decelerate an object the size of the ISS, which is a unbalanced collection of modules. Rapid acceleration or deceleration would rip it apart. The ISS is a very productive space laboratory. They are discovering all sorts of things that will make space an attractive place for special manufacturing. They are also measuring solar radiation, and the effects of that and weightlessness on living organisms – things we need to study more before sending people on multi-year missions into space. Dumping it into the ocean after 2020 seems a very stupid wasteful thing to do. Look how much we've gained by repairing and upgrading Hubble, which almost got decommissioned. As for anyone who thinks the ISS is within the Earth's atmosphere, or that the moon landings were faked, you are gullible conspiracy theorists. IOW, you are not smart – UR ID-10-T's.

    February 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  15. Billy Bob Joe

    The video of how to cut your nails in outer space is cool.

    February 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  16. Fred Krueger

    The Rapidscat sounds messy.

    February 2, 2013 at 5:22 am |
  17. Dave

    NASA is wasting money on this thing. It should be working on developing new space crafts to go to the moon or mars.

    February 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • j

      What do you think about adding a couple of boosters to the space shuttleAnd lending it on MarsWith a full keg er cargobay of equipment?

      Moreover, what do you think of the X 34 a 5 man spacecraft, a taxi of sort to the "Space Station" turned into a white elephant long ago, dead white elephant, that is?

      February 2, 2013 at 3:33 am |
    • j

      X-34 Contact Sheet : EC00-0226-7

      About the X-34 – NASA – Home http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/x-33… X-34 Program Background Information. On August 28, 1996, NASA awarded to Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) a contract for the design, development, and testing of the ...

      NASA – X-34 Technology Testbed Demonstrator http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/history/.../… NASA announced March 1, 2001, that it would not add Space Launch Initiative funds to the X-34 program.

      x34 site:nasa.gov

      Retrieved http://search.yahoo.com/mobile/s?ei=UTF-8&r=web_filter&nocache=1&r=web_filter&fr2=p&p=x34+site%3Anasa.gov

      February 2, 2013 at 3:41 am |
    • krehator

      NASA has become an underachiever. Now, don't get me wrong, it does do a lot, but compared to its "dream big and do it" era in the 60's, this new NASA is just blowing money on hanging around in orbit. The best thing it has done lately is sent probes to Mars.

      At this rate, private companies will surpass NASA in the next 30 years. Why should we bother paying for it, if companies are willing to?

      February 3, 2013 at 2:41 am |
  18. Me

    A cylinder is the strongest engineering structure. Look at a jumbo jet and ask yourself why it is the same basic shape decades later.

    February 1, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • j

      That's why the Space Shuttle's fuel tanks were originally going to be boosted to L4, not dropped back to Earth. Were those 'space tourists' asking too many nerdy questions like:
      "Why is the ISS not in outer space, but deep in Earth's atmosphere?"
      "Why can't we move it into another orbit, like around the Moon?"

      Seems like pesky tourists with smart questions are not allowed to visit the ISS anymore; Do you agree?

      February 1, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Canadian Hobo

      your mom likes cylinders

      February 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • krehator

      You mean the same pesky tourists who PAY THE BILLS?

      February 3, 2013 at 2:43 am |
      • j

        Granted it is an amazing feats of engineer; And an even more amazing feat of propaganda keeping us at the very least atmosphere bound.

        Moon dreams – The Americans may still go to the moon before the Chinese" . The Economist. February 18, 2010.
        Andrew Bridges (November 1, 2000). "The ISS won't be hosting paying guests anytime soon – at least not as far as NASA is concerned." . Space.com. Retrieved August 5, 2010.


        February 3, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  19. Mark Shemwell

    Is it just me or does the space station look like a bunch of trash cans and satellites glued together, wow it's 2013 and they still can't make space stations look futuristic like in Star Trek, huh? Great feats of engineering, but they need to hire Richard Branson and company and get their designs up to date, the space station still looks like something outa the 80's.

    February 1, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Gelin

      That is such a silly response. This is a serious scientific endeavor and you are complaining that it does not look good? The hardware on broad is top notch and the design called for a modular structure where multiple modules were added over the years, sent in one piece at a time. It was the best the current technology can muster and is a eminently practical solution and you are complaining that it does not look good! Do you always judge books by their cover? Do you own apple products? If I put a toyota corolla drivetrain in a Mercedes outer shell, can I sell it to you at the price of a Ferrari?

      February 1, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Kareful

      You fool. The ISS was launched in 1998. With the little bit of engineering experience I have, I know that it had to take well over a decade to design, build, test, protype etc. Therefore, the design was probably from the 80's. You should probably kill your television, as it has clearly destroyed your ability to think logically and creatively.

      February 1, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • keith

        While it is sort of ridiculous to knock the design. Nasa should pull some stunts for publicity. Some savvy marketing could get them back in the limelight. Put a beacon on the ISS so we can see it clearly at night.. make a reality show on the moon.. do SOMETHING. NASA needs to remind us how much we owe to the moon landing and other feats. And yes.. an enterprise shaped shuttle for example would probably do more for NASA than about half of the probes they've sent out in terms of helping them gain momentum for future exploration. they needs a new image.

        February 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  20. Tom

    Nice job Elizabeth and Sophia.

    February 1, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  21. Alan Barnes

    why not put it in low orbit around Mars for missions there?

    February 1, 2013 at 2:12 am |
    • diabhal

      Sure, but who is going pay for it?

      February 1, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • j

      If it could be done, it would be; But it can't. Visualize popcorn, think of our sun as an oven; Then think astronaut turning into something like popcorn. Any questions?

      February 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • j

      A Lesson from the US Propulsion Module Program” Stephan ... http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/293256main_62689main_… Chronology • Summer of 98: – Boeing convinces NASA HQRTS to procure Prop Module that siphons propellants from the shuttle after it docks with ISS.

      iss "propulsion module" site:nasa.gov

      February 1, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  22. Dandini

    1969 to 1972, the US landed man on the MOON Six (6) times.

    What happened??

    Why was that not mentioned in this article??

    January 31, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Bill Johnston

      Because that has nothing to do with the article.

      February 1, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • j

      We should mint a new coin and print another stamp of our amazing accomplishments; That way we can hold it in our hand or lick it and say, "Wow, it's true!"

      February 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • krehator

      NASA forgot how to dream big.

      February 3, 2013 at 2:44 am |
  23. empresstrudy

    Manned spaceflight will over forever in a few years.

    January 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Chase

      Your crazy man. Haven't you heard of proactive company like SpaceX. Manned missions into space are only just beginning. Just because NASA isn't going to do it for quite sometimes doesn't mean they will be over forever. ITS THE FINAL FRONTIER

      February 1, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  24. Prr

    Why cannot the scientists figure a propulsion system for the station that would boost it into a higher orbit that would stop the current orbit decay? Seems like a really stupid waste of materials and time and knowledge to simply accept that it must fall into the ocean someday relatively soon.

    January 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • U5K0

      the ISS orbit is routinely boosted by ATVs:


      January 31, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • j

      The propulsion module was canned and the ISS would need at least an umbrella if it were to be boosted into a higher orbit, or off to the Moon.

      January 31, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
      • bobcat

        It cannot be in higher orbit 200 miles is a precisely calculated for logistic and scientific concerns.

        January 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  25. Al

    AWESOME! Would do anything to be on the Space Station!

    January 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Zoglet

      cool – meet me in the woodshed- bring towels!

      January 31, 2013 at 6:54 pm |


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