From Diana J. Choyce
Nov 06 - 12, 1999
Space exploration has been rather slow as of late. But a
resurgence is on the horizon in a big way. It would seem that the most efficient way to
explore space is to have a base of operations already in space. With that in mind work is
continuing on a global space station that involves many countries. This includes two
countries, the US and Russia, who up until now only sought to compete instead of working
together. One would hope these new alliances will contribute not only to our growing
knowledge of the world around us but also of each other.
In January of 1998, 15 countries signed a formal pact to begin
construction on a $20 billion dollar International Space Station. The countries involved,
besides the US and Russia, are Japan, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy,
the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The plan is
to have the station inhabitable by 1999 and completed by 2003. All countries are supplying
technology for the project. More than four times as large as the Russian Mir space
station, the completed International Space Station will have a mass of about 1,040,000
pounds. It will measure 356 feet across and 290 feet long, with almost an acre of solar
panels to provide electrical power to six state-of-the-art laboratories. The station will
be in an orbit with an altitude of 250 statute miles with an inclination of 51.6 degrees.
This orbit was chosen as it allows space vehicles from all countries involved access to
the station. The orbit also provides excellent Earth observations with coverage of 85
percent of the globe and over flight of 95 percent of the population. By the end of this
year, about 500,000 pounds of station
components will be have been built at factories around the world.
The U.S. elements include three connecting modules, or nodes; a
laboratory module; truss segments; four solar arrays; a habitation module; three mating
adapters; a cupola; an unpressurized logistics carrier and a centrifuge module. The
various systems being developed by the U.S. include thermal control; life support;
guidance, navigation and control; data handling; power systems; communications and
tracking; ground operations facilities and launch-site processing facilities. Canada is
providing a 55-foot-long robotic arm to be used for assembly and maintenance tasks on the
Space Station. The European Space Agency is building a pressurized laboratory to be
launched on the Space Shuttle and logistics transport vehicles to be launched on the
Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Japan is building a laboratory with an attached exposed exterior
platform for experiments as well as logistics transport vehicles. Russia is providing two
research modules; an early living quarters called the Service Module with its own life
support and habitation systems; a science power platform of solar arrays that can supply
about 20 kilowatts of electrical power; logistics transport vehicles; and Soyuz spacecraft
for crew return and transfer. n addition, Brazil and Italy are contributing some equipment
to the station through agreements with the United States.
The first phase of this project actually began in 1985 with the
Shuttle-Mir Program. US astronauts spent 32 months aboard the Mir station gaining
knowledge in technology, international space operations and scientific research. The
experience gained will be used in the new space station and was obtained at a very low
cost. Also the co-operation and trust that was gained will be crucial in the development
of the new station. The International Space Station will include a state-of-the-art
laboratory complex in orbit, more than four times the size and with almost 60 times the
electrical power for experiments critical for research capability of Russia's Mir.
Research in the station's six laboratories will lead to discoveries in medicine, materials
and fundamental science that will benefit people all over the world. Through its research
and technology, the station also will serve as an indispensable step in preparation for
future human space exploration.
Assembly of the new station will require more spacewalks than ever
before and a new generation of space robots will be used. About 850 clock hours of
spacewalks, both U.S. and Russian, will be required over five years to maintain and
assemble the station. The Space Shuttle and two types of Russian launch vehicles will
launch 45 assembly missions. Of these, 36 will be Space Shuttle flights. In addition,
and changeover of Soyuz crew return spacecraft will be launched
regularly. The first crew to live aboard the International Space Station, commanded by
U.S. astronaut Bill Shepherd and including Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko as Soyuz
Commander and Sergei Krikalev as Flight Engineer, will be launched in early 2000 on a
Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Three flights have already occurred with a Russian Proton rocket that
lifted off in November 1998 and placed the Zarya module in orbit. In early December, the
Shuttle Endeavour attached the Unity module to Zarya. The third mission was in June 1999
with Discovery supplying the two modules with tools and cranes.
More than seven more shuttle flights are expected through the year 2000
to attach various assembles and supplies to the station. And more than forty flights are
needed over the next five years to deliver all the components and supplies needed. These
flights will include the US space shuttles, and Russia's Soyuz and Proton rockets.
One would hope that the unity and trust built by this project will
reflect on all peoples. There is no better place to learn tolerance and understanding than
by countries working side by side on a program, that will benefit all of mankind.