Top 10 Interesting Facts About The International Space Station

Earthly Politics

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As we mentioned earlier, the International Space Station is not owned by a single nation. It is owned and was built by the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, and several European countries. Each country, or group of countries in the case of the European Space Agency, owns certain sections of the ISS along with the modules they sent there.

The ISS itself is divided into two sections: the US section and the Russian section. The Russian section is exclusively used by Russia, while the US section is shared by every other country. Most countries involved in the development of the ISS, particularly the US and Russia, have taken their Earthly politics to space.

This reared its ugly head in 2014, after the US imposed several sanctions on Russia and severed relationships with certain Russian agencies. One agency was Roscosmos, Russia’s equivalent of NASA. However, there is a problem here.

NASA no longer launches space shuttles and depends on Roscosmos to get its astronauts to the ISS. If Roscosmos pulls out of the deal or refuses to send or retrieve US astronauts from the ISS, NASA and the US would be in an embarrassing fix. In fact, after NASA severed its relationship with Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister of Russia, tweeted that the US should start sending its astronauts to the ISS with trampolines.

There’s No Laundry

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There is no washing machine on board the ISS. Even if there was, astronauts do not have excess water for laundry. One option could be for astronauts to travel to the ISS with enough clothes to last them for their mission without the need for laundry, but that is not necessarily the case.

It costs $5,000–10,000 to get a pound of cargo to the ISS, and no one wants to spend that much just to get clothes there. Astronauts cannot bring their dirty laundry back to Earth, either, since there isn’t enough space in their shuttle. So they essentially burn their used clothes.

At this point, we need to understand that astronauts do not need a daily change of clothes as we do here on Earth. Aside from all the exercise they have to do, astronauts don’t have to exert themselves much in the microgravity environment. The temperature and humidity of the ISS are controlled, too. This allows them to wear the same clothes for up to four days before they even bother to change.

Russia periodically launches unmanned spacecraft to deliver supplies to the ISS. These spacecraft can only make one-way trips to the ISS and cannot return back to Earth (in one piece). Once they dock on the ISS, astronauts unload the supplies and fill the spacecraft with trash and dirty clothes before it is undocked to fall back to Earth. The spacecraft and everything within burns up in the skies above the Pacific ocean.

Astronauts Exercise A Lot

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Astronauts almost always lose bone and muscle mass on every space trip. With every month they spend in space, they lose about two percent of the minerals in their limb bones. This doesn’t sound like much, but it quickly adds up. A typical mission to the ISS could take six months, which is enough for some astronauts to lose one fourth of the bone mass in some parts of their skeletons.

Space agencies try countering this loss by requiring astronauts to exercise for about two hours daily. Despite this, they still lose bone and muscle mass. And since almost every astronaut who goes to space regularly exercises, space agencies do not have control groups to determine the effectiveness of these exercises.

The exercise equipment is not the same as the stuff we use here on Earth. The differences in gravity mean that astronauts always need specially made equipment.

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