Stories and Resources From the International Space Station

Mike Schoultz
6 min readAug 28, 2019

Have you ever visited Cape Canaveral and explored the history of the space program? It is a great place to visit. In this blog, we’ll discuss some interesting facts and stories about the International Space Station. This includes some fantastic resources for you to find some more discoveries on your own.

Growing up my family lived only 30 miles, or so south of there, so we experienced most of the space history first hand. In college, I was lucky enough to land a summer job there the summer of the Apollo 11 launch. That was an amazing day.

International Space Station … historical overview

The International Space Station (ISS) has its origins in 1984. That was when President Ronald Reagan, in his State of the Union address, directed NASA to build a space outpost within the next ten years. The actual assembly of the ISS did not start until 1998, and all its main components were not in place until 2011.

The ISS is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. It is a modular structure whose first component was launched in 1998. The ISS consists of pressurized modules, external trusses, solar arrays, and other components.

Purpose of the International Space Station

According to the original Memorandum of Understanding between NASA and the Soviet Union, the ISS was intended to be a laboratory, observatory, and factory in low Earth orbit.

It was also planned to provide transportation, maintenance, and act as a staging base for possible future missions to the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. In the 2010 United States National Space Policy, the ISS was given additional roles of serving commercial, diplomatic and educational purposes.

The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.

International Space Station assembly

The assembly of the International Space Station, a major endeavor in space architecture, began in November 1998. Russian modules launched and docked robotically, except Rassvet.

All other modules were delivered by the Space Shuttle, which required installation by ISS and shuttle crewmembers using the SSRMS and EVAs; as of 5 June 2011, they had added 159 components during more than 1,000 hours of EVA.

Deconstructing The ISS is a neat interactive about the International Space Station from The Washington Post. The New York Times has a nice interactive timeline called “Assembling the International Space Station.” USA Today has similar graphics127 of these spacewalks originated from the station, while the remaining 32 were launched from the airlocks of docked Space Shuttles.

The beta angle of the station had to be considered at all times during construction, as the station’s beta angle is directly related to the percentage of its orbit that the station (as well as any docked or docking spacecraft) is exposed to the sun. The first module of the ISS, Zarya, was launched on 20 November 1998 on an autonomous Russian Proton rocket. It provided propulsion, attitude control, communications, electrical power, but lacked long-term life support functions.

Two weeks later a passive NASA module Unity was launched aboard Space Shuttle flight STS-88 and attached to Zarya by astronauts during EVAs. This module has two pressurized attachments, one connects permanently to Zarya, and the other allows the Space Shuttle to dock with the space station. At this time, the Russian station Mir was still inhabited. The ISS remained unmanned for two years, during which time Mir was de-orbited.

On 12 July 2000 Zvezda was launched into orbit. Preprogrammed commands onboard deployed its solar arrays and communications antenna. It then became the passive vehicle for a rendezvous with the Zarya and Unity. As a passive “target” vehicle, the Zvezda maintained a station-keeping orbit as the Zarya-Unity vehicle performed the rendezvous and docking via ground control and the Russian automated rendezvous and docking system.

Zarya’s computer transferred control of the station to Zvezda’s computer soon after docking. Zvezda added sleeping quarters, a toilet, kitchen, CO2 scrubbers, dehumidifier, oxygen generators, exercise equipment, plus data, voice and television communications with mission control. This enabled permanent habitation of the station.

International Space Station … most interesting facts

The ISS is an unprecedented feat of engineering, but its utility as an orbital research facility has been questioned because of its enormous maintenance costs: $3 billion every year the station has been continuously occupied for 14 years since the arrival of Expedition 1 on 2 November 2000.

This is the longest continuous human presence in space, having surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 days held by Mir. It has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations. Now the largest artificial body in orbit, it can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth.ISS components have been launched by American Space Shuttles as well as Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets.

Life Aboard the International Space Station

A typical day for the crew begins with a wake-up at 06:00, followed by post-sleep activities and a morning inspection of the station. The crew then eats breakfast and takes part in a daily planning conference with Mission Control before starting work at around 08:10. The first scheduled exercise of the day follows, after which the crew continues work until 13:05.

Following a one-hour lunch break, the afternoon consists of more exercise and work before the crew carries out its pre-sleep activities beginning at 19:30, including dinner and a crew conference. The scheduled sleep period begins at 21:30. In general, the crew works ten hours per day on a weekday, and five hours on Saturdays, with the rest of the time their own for relaxation or work catch-up.

The station provides crew quarters for each member of the expedition’s crew, with two ‘sleep stations’ in the Zvezda and four more installed in Harmony. The American quarters are private, approximately person-sized soundproof booths.

Best photo resource examples for the International Space Station

A Decade on the Fly: Building the International Space Station–Module by Module [Slide Show]NASA has created an amazing slideshow of the International Space Station compiling photos taking from a recent Soyuz flight.NASA’s multimedia presentation on the International Space Station provides excellent info. The Boston Globe has some pretty amazing images of the ISS.

Best video resource examples for the International Space Station

This MSNBC video showing images of the recently-completed Station is pretty amazing. The New York Times has a nice interactive timeline called “Assembling the International Space Station.”USA Today has a similar graphic.

There is a ton of videos and images taken from the station on The Best Images Taken in Space list. Space Walk, from “Life in Space,” lets you simulate being an astronaut repairing the International Space Station.

Best reference material

NASA’s multimedia presentation on the International Space Station provides excellent info.NASA has a great site about the International Space Station. It has cool images and interviews with astronauts.



Mike Schoultz

Mike Schoultz writes about improving the performance of business. Bookmark his blog for stories and articles.