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This picture shows the International Space Station. An astronaut on the Space Shuttle took this picture in 2002.
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Image courtesy NASA.

International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is a large space station that orbits Earth. There are astronauts and cosmonauts living onboard the ISS right now. The ISS isn't completely finished, though. New sections will be added to the ISS in the next few years. Sixteen countries, including the United States, are working together on the ISS.

The first piece of the ISS was launched in November 1998. Several more pieces have been added since then. There is about as much room inside the ISS as there is inside a couple of school busses. The ISS orbits 354 kilometers (220 miles) above Earth.

The first crew of astronauts and cosmonauts started living on the ISS in October 2000. The crews do experiments to learn how people and other creatures are affected by living in space. They also learn how to make things in space, like larger crystals or rounder ball bearings. The crews also spend time studying Earth and figuring out what equipment is best to use for long trips in space. Each crew spends about six months on the ISS before returning to Earth.

Last modified May 10, 2004 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA