Top 10 Interesting Facts About The International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is a multinational space station owned, built, and run by the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, and several European countries operating under the European Space Agency (ESA). Its groundwork was laid in 1984, when President Reagan demanded that NASA build a space station in ten years. In 1998, Russia launched the first module of the ISS.

Since then, other countries, including Russia, have added their own modules, and the station continued to grow. Today, the International Space Station is a 460-ton facility about the size of a football field. Here are ten interesting facts you did not know about it.

It’s Actually Falling

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Unlike what many of us think, there is gravity in space. The International Space Station is between 200 and 250 miles above the Earth, where gravityis about 90 percent as strong as on Earth. This is enough to send the ISS crashing into the planet. So why isn’t it falling?

The ISS actually is falling. However, it’s not crashing into the Earth because the speed at which it falls is almost the same as the speed at which it is moving round the Earth, so it just falls along the curve of the planet. We can say the ISS is falling around the Earth. This is the same thing happening with the Moon; it’s also falling around Earth.

The falling of the ISS is the same reason astronauts on board look weightless, even though gravity is present inside. Since the speed at which the ISS is falling is almost equal to the speed at which it is moving round the Earth, the astronauts aren’t pulled in any particular direction. So they just float.

The Sun Rises Every 90 Minutes

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The International Space Station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes. The result is that astronauts experience sunrise every 90 minutes. This means they experience a sunrise 16 times a day and sunset 16 times a day. An astronaut who spends 342 days on the ISS will experience 5,472 sunrises and 5,472 sunsets, while we on Earth will make do with a mere 342 of each.

Interestingly, astronauts on board the ISS do not experience dawn or dusk. However, they can clearly see the terminator—the line that separates the light and dark portions of the Earth at any time. On Earth, people along the line will be experiencing dawn or dusk at that moment.

The First Malaysian Astronaut On The ISS Had A Prayer Problem

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Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor was the first Malaysian astronaut. On October 10, 2007, he left Earth for a nine-day mission to the ISS. However, he and his country encountered some unusual problems before he left. Shukor is a Muslim, which means he needs to pray five times a day, as required in Islam. Also, the trip happened during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims are expected to fast.

Remember we mentioned that the ISS experiences sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes? This meant Shukor would have problems determining when to pray, since prayer time in Islam is determined by the position of the Sun in the sky. Muslims also need to face the Kaaba in Mecca when praying. On the ISS, the direction of the Kaaba and Mecca would be changing every second. In fact, during the course of a prayer, Shukor could go from facing the Kaaba to being parallel with it.

Angkasa, Malaysia’s equivalent of NASA, assembled 150 Islamic clerics and scientists to find a solution to this problem. The assembly agreed that Shukor should start his prayer facing the Kabaa and disregard any changes thereafter. If he could not determine the position of the Kaaba, he should face any direction he thought the Kaaba was. If that proved difficult, he should just face the Earth or do anything he thought was necessary.

Additionally, the assembly agreed it was not necessary that Shukor kneel during prayers if weightlessness on the ISS made it difficult for him to do so. It was also not necessary that he perform ablution with water. He could just wipe his body with a wet towel. He could also reduce his prayers to three instead of five. It was also concluded that Shukor didn’t need to fast, since Islam exempts travelers from fasting.

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