Did you know that the ISS goes so fast that it would go the Moon and back in a day, that you can connect a hairdryer in Newark to a power plug in NYC using its electrical cables, that is almost as big as Princess Leia's spaceship, or that three crew members will eat the equivalent of 32,558 Big Macs in six months? Read on for 15 awesome facts about the ISS.
15 years ago today, Russia launched Zarya (dawn) atop a Proton-K rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Two weeks later, NASA launched Unity. Those were the two first modules of the International Space Station. Here are 15 amazing facts about it:
1. It took an astounding 136 space flights on seven different types of launch vehicles to build it.
2. It flies at 4.791 miles per second (7.71 km/s). That's fast enough to go to the Moon and back in about a day.
3. It weighs almost 1 million pounds including visiting spacecraft. Picture 120,000 gallons of milk in supermarket cartons in your mind.
4. It has 8 miles of wire just to connect the electrical power system. That will be enough to connect a hairdryer in Newark, New Jersey, to a power plug in New York City.
5. It has a complete surface area the size of a US football field, which actually makes it almost as large as the Tantive IV, the Corellian Corvette that carried Princess Leia.
6. It has more livable space than a 6-bedroom house.
7. It has two bathrooms, a gymnasium and a 360-degree bay window.
8. It's been the spaceport for 89 Russian Soyuz spacecraft, 37 Space Shuttle missions, three SpaceX Dragons, four Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft, and four European ATV cargo spacecraft.
9. All its research experiments and spacecraft systems are housed in a bit more than one hundred telephone-booth sized racks.
10. The US solar array surface area on the is 38,400 sq. feet (.88 acre), which is large enough to cover 8 basketball courts
11. According to NASA, "there are 52 computers controlling the ISS." Just for the US segment, there are "1.5 million lines of flight software code run on 44 computers communicating via 100 data networks transferring 400,000 signals."
12. Its internal pressurized volume is 32,333 cubic feet, which is about the same of a Jumbo Boeing 747.
13. The ISS crews have eaten about 25,000 meals since 2000. That's a staggering "seven tons of supplies per three astronauts for six months." That's 32,558 Big Macs.
14. 211 people from 15 countries have visited the ISS so far.
15. When it reaches the end of its life, some of the most modern Russian modules—like Nauka—will be reused to make a third space station to support interplanetary mission to Mars, the Moon and Saturn, serving as a launching and return point.
But beyond all these awesome factoids, the ISS is truly a great research platform, one that contributes to the greater good of the entire planet, both in terms of science and just awe and inspiration.
More importantly, the ISS is also the symbol of the end of Cold War and international understanding. According to NASA, "the ISS has more than 100,000 people working for space agencies and more than 500 contractor facilities in 37 US states and 16 countries." 68 countries have been involved on the research onboard the station.
Ultimately, I hope, the ISS will be the beginning of a future planetary federation to go where no human has gone before.