One starry night, God took a man named Abraham outside and said to him, “Look up at the stars—can you count them?” The sky was covered with stars. No way could Abraham count them all! Then God promised Abraham that someday he would have more descendents than he could count. Abraham believed God, and God’s promise came true. But Abraham never imagined that some of his descendants might one day be LIVING up by those stars!
On a starry night, if you look up in the sky you might see something that looks like a star, but it’s not. It’s not an airplane or a helicopter, either. It’s the International Space Station, and people are living there right now!
Space Station Life
- There isn’t much gravity on the space station, so things float if they’re not tied down. Astronauts hook their sleeping bags to the wall so they won’t float all over the space station.
- The space station orbits the Earth 15 times every 24 hours, so the astronauts get to see 15 sunrises and 15 sunsets every day!
- It’s really noisy on the space
- station—kind of like living in a big vacuum cleaner. But astronauts get used to it.
- There aren’t any washing machines on board, so astronauts wear disposable clothes that they change every three days.
- Tastebuds don’t work very well after you’ve been in space for a long time, so astronauts like to eat spicy food.
The International Space Station
The International Space Station (ISS for short) is a research lab in space. It orbits (goes around) the Earth 250 miles (400 kilometers) up in the sky.
Astronauts do lots of experiments on the ISS, like growing plants and crystals in space, testing how being in space for a long time affects people’s bodies, and much more.
The space station was built piece by piece starting in 1998. The space shuttle brings the new pieces, or modules, up from Earth so the astronauts can install them. It took more than 10 years to build the space station! Here are some fun facts about this fantastic floating laboratory:
How long is it? It’s 361 feet long (110 meters)—about as long as a U.S. football field including the end zones!
How much does it weigh? Almost a million pounds (453.6 metric tons)—or as much as about 500 Volkswagen Beetles!
Who owns it? Canada, Japan, Russia, the United States, and the European Space Agency work on the ISS together.
How long will it be in space? The space station is a machine, so it won’t last forever. But it will probably be in orbit at least until the year 2020, and maybe longer. Since the U.S. plans to stop its space shuttle program later this year, U.S. astronauts will have to hitch a ride on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to get to the space station.
Robots in Space!
In September, the International Space Station will look even more like something out of Star Wars. NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is sending a robot, or “robonaut,” to live there!
The robot is called “R2” for short, and from the waist up he looks pretty much like a human being. He’s going to the space station because NASA wants to find out how well robots can operate in space, and if they could someday do the jobs that are dangerous for humans.
R2 can use the same tools that astronauts use, but he can’t work outside the space station because the cold temperatures would damage him. But maybe someday R2 will be able to take his first spacewalk!
Meet an Astronaut
Tracy Caldwell Dyson has been a U.S. astronaut since 1999. Since then, she’s traveled millions of miles in space. Right now she’s living on board the space station until she goes back to Earth in September. According to her profile on Wikipedia, she’s a Christian, so it’s really true that there’s a descendent of Abraham on the space station right now!
Tracy was picked to be an astronaut because she has lots of skills: she studied chemistry and other sciences for many years, she’s a good athlete, and she has lots of experience with tools because she used to work as an electrician for her father’s company.
When she’s on Earth, Tracy likes to play sports, hike, and fix cars. She knows American Sign Language, and she also speaks Russian, which helps her talk to Russian cosmonauts on the space station.
Taking Out the Trash
On the International Space Station, taking out the garbage is a WAY bigger job than taking out the trash at your house, and there aren’t any garbage trucks to haul the trash away. Sowhat do the astronauts do with all their junk?
Everything they can’t recycle is either put on a shuttle and sent back to Earth or put on a spaceship that completely burns up when it enters Earth’s atmosphere.
Put Your Face in Space!
Want to launch your face into space? You can! NASA is sending photos of anyone who wants to participate up into space on its last two space shuttle missions in September and November. Just visit www.faceinspace.nasa.gov and follow the instructions. (You need to be 13 to upload your own photo, but if you’re younger, try a family photo with a parent’s help!)