Astronauts breathing on Mars with artificial photosynthesis
In this article we are going to read about astronauts breathing on Mars with artificial photosynthesis.
“How to breathe?” When we think about space exploration, this is the question that comes to everyone’s mind.
The need to conserve space and fuel is a limitation on the amount of oxygen astronauts can carry into space, a shortage that is challenging given the vastness of space and the two-year flight time for a one-way trip to Mars.
Most of the oxygen on the International Space Station (ISS) is obtained through electrolysis, a chemical process that uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Also, a separate system converts exhaled carbon dioxide into water and methane.
However, this method consumes 1.5 kilowatts of energy, which is about a third of the total energy required to run the environmental control and life support system in the space station, which is responsible for providing clean air for the crew and laboratory animals present in this station.
Now, a study published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications evaluates the possibility of replacing existing oxygen and fuel production systems with photoelectrochemical devices (PEC).
This process is similar to photosynthesis in plants and takes water as input and involves the separation of light harvesting and chemical production.
This solution not only greatly reduces the weight and volume of the system, but also brings significant benefits in terms of efficiency.
While plants rely on chlorophyll to absorb light, this proposed device instead uses semiconductor materials coated with metal catalysts that support the desired chemical reaction.
Furthermore, this study establishes a framework capable of predicting the performance of these PEC devices on the Moon and Mars.
Katrina Brinkert, an assistant professor of catalysis at the University of Warwick in the UK and the study’s principal investigator, confirmed that these photoelectrochemical devices could be adapted to existing life-support technologies, such as the oxygen generator set on the International Space Station.
The ability to operate at room temperature puts these artificial photosynthesis devices ahead of alternative methods, such as producing oxygen from recollite – lunar soil – that NASA scientists have tested using high temperatures.
However, not all factors favor the PEC approach. Being farther from the Sun than Earth, Mars receives less light, which is the main source of photoelectrochemical reactions. Therefore, this study emphasizes the importance of solar mirrors to combat this decrease in light intensity.
A leaf from the book of nature
Our dreams of space exploration depends on our ability to develop green technologies, such as the PEC device, that can help create an artificial atmosphere in space as well as achieve energy economy goals on Earth.
Although this study demonstrates the durability of PEC devices, their efficiency in microgravity conditions, and their theoretical scalability, it remains to be seen how effective they will be in practice.
Further research could show that artificial photosynthesis becomes a key cog in our quest to produce energy-rich chemicals that are easy to store and transport.
It is interesting to note that the untranslated version of this article in English was written and edited by a human with the help of artificial intelligence tools.
France and Italy collaborate to build a lunar habitat
France and Italy collaborate to build a lunar habitat. France and Italy plan to work together to create a multifunctional habitat for living on the moon.
France and Italy collaborate to build a lunar habitat
Solar system; Formation, planets, wonders and everything you need to know
Solar system; Formation, planets, wonders and everything you need to know
The solar system is one of the billions of star systems in the Milky Way galaxy, which consists of the average central star of the Sun. The order of placement of the planets in this system from the nearest mass to the sun are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and possibly the ninth planet.
The solar system starts from the sun continues to the Kuiper belt and finally reaches the boundary of the Heliopass. According to scientists, the edge of the solar system is approximately 15 billion kilometers away from the sun. On the other side of the Heliopass, there is a huge oval-shaped cloud called the Oort cloud, which surrounds our solar system.
Table of Contents
- What is the solar system?
- The origin of the solar system
- Size and distance in the solar system
- The planets of the solar system
- What is a planet?
- planet Earth
- planet mars
- The planet Neptune
- asteroid belt
- Kuiper belt
- The ninth planet
- edge of the solar system
- The largest planets in the solar system
- Discoveries and travels of the solar system
- Photos of the solar system
What is the solar system?
The solar system is a collection of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and gas and dust that revolve around the Sun star. This system consists of rocky planets including Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, gas giants including Jupiter and Saturn, and ice giants including Uranus and Neptune.
Between Mars and Jupiter, there is a set of asteroids known as the Asteroid Belt, and on the other side of Neptune, a set of small icy bodies known as the Kuiper Belt revolve around the Sun. Objects such as the dwarf planet Pluto are also considered part of the Kuiper belt.
The origin of the solar system
About 4.6 billion years ago, a dark cloud of gas and dust underwent a gravitational collapse. This cloud compressed and turned into a rotating disk known as the solar nebula. The heat and pressure were eventually so great that the hydrogen atoms fused together to form helium. Nuclear interactions released large amounts of energy and the Sun was formed.
The Sun collected approximately 99% of the material in the solar nebula, and the rest of the material formed similar clumps inside the rotating disk. Some of these materials reached enough mass and gravity to form globular masses or planets, dwarf planets, and moons. The remaining fragments formed meteorites, comets, and other moons that make up the solar system.
Meteorites, or celestial rocks that fell to Earth, helped scientists estimate the age of the solar system. Some of these small fragments originated from moons or planets that can provide fascinating scientific information about the chemical properties and history of their parent matter. Some others were circulating in the solar system from the very beginning and before the formation of planets. The Allende meteorite, which fell to Earth in 1969, is the best-known meteorite with an age of 4.55 billion years.
According to scientists, the solar system was created during the explosion of a nearby star or the supernova process . According to this theory, the explosion caused shock waves to be sent into space and these waves compressed the solar nebula and finally led to its collapse. The supernova likely drove material into the nebula.
The stages of the formation of the solar system
Size and distance in the solar system
The solar system is so big that it is almost impossible to imagine its size using units like kilometers. The distance from the Earth to the Sun is approximately 150 million kilometers, but the distance from the Sun to the farthest planet in the solar system, Neptune, is 4.5 billion kilometers. Now compare this distance with the average distance that a healthy person can walk non-stop in one day (32 km) or the distance to the International Space Station (400 km).
The best way to estimate the size of the solar system is to create a scale model that shows the distance of the planets from the sun. Astronomers use the distance between the Earth and the Sun (150 million kilometers) as a unit of measurement known as the astronomical unit. Therefore, 150 million kilometers is equal to one astronomical unit, or AU for short.
Thus, the distance between Mercury and the Sun (0.43 AU), Venus is 0.7 AU, Earth is 1 AU and Mars is 1.5 AU. Then we reach the asteroid belt, which is 2.8 AU away from the Sun. The gas giants Jupiter and Saturn are 5.2 and 9.5 AU from the Sun, respectively, and the ice giants Uranus and Neptune are 19.8 and 30 AU, respectively.
The Kuiper Belt is 50 AU away from the Sun and finally, the border of the Solar System or Heliopass is 123 AU away from the Sun.
Read More: The International Space Station
An artist’s rendering of the Parker probe exploring the Sun
The sun is at the center of the solar system and constitutes approximately 99.8% of the mass of its system. The sun provides the necessary energy for life on Earth. This composite yellow dwarf star consists of 91% hydrogen and 8.9% helium. The Sun is relatively small compared to other stars and is one of hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
The planets of the solar system
The four inner planets of the solar system, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, are classified as terrestrial planets or rocky worlds due to their rocky surface.
The four outer worlds of the solar system, namely Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, are called Jupiter-like planets due to their larger size than the rocky planets. Most of these planets are made up of gases such as hydrogen and helium, although some planetologists believe that some of these planets have solid cores.
The planets Jupiter and Saturn are called gas giants, while Uranus and Neptune, the two outermost worlds of the solar system, are classified as ice giants because they are composed of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, such as oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur, and have a thick mantle. They have methane, ammonia, and frozen water.
What is a planet?But before introducing the planets of the solar system, it is necessary to get acquainted with the definition of a planet. According to the standard definition, a planet is a mass of sufficient size that revolves around the Sun and itself. But it is not big enough to undergo nuclear fusion like a star. It has also cleared its vicinity of a large number of other objects.
The exact definition mentioned above shows what should be included in the category of planets and what should not be included in this group. However, the problem arose when astronomers discovered a large number of planet-like bodies in the solar system. For example, Pluto was one of the objects that could not meet all the above conditions and was classified as a dwarf planet.
Most of the gaseous planets are composed of hydrogen and helium and probably have a solid core; While the core of rocky planets is often molten.
Pluto’s problem is its small size and strange orbit that cannot clear nearby objects. It also has a lot in common with the Kuiper belt. According to the IAU definition, this planet and other small globular worlds including Eris, Haumea and Makimaki, other Kuiper belt objects are classified as dwarf planets.
Ceres is another globular body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which belongs to the group of dwarf planets. Ceres was classified as a planet when it was first discovered in 1801 but was later recognized as an asteroid. However, this definition was not enough because it was much larger and more spherical than asteroids. Therefore, astronomers classified this object as a dwarf planet in 2006.
Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun from the perspective of NASA’s Messenger probe.
- Discovery: It was known to the ancient Greeks and can be seen in the sky with the naked eye.
- Naming: Mercury, derived from the name of the messenger god in Roman mythology
- Diameter: 4878 km
- Year: 88 Earth days
- Day: 58.6 Earth days
- Number of moons: zero
Mercury is the closest world to the sun and the smallest planet in the solar system. This planet is only slightly larger than the Earth’s moon and completes its orbit around the sun in 88 days.
The temperature difference between the day and night of Mercury is significant. The temperature of Mercury during the day reaches 450 degrees Celsius, which is enough to melt lead. During the night, the temperature drops to minus 180 degrees Celsius. Mercury’s atmosphere is very thin and contains elements such as oxygen, sodium, hydrogen, helium, and potassium. Since this weak atmosphere cannot prevent meteorite collisions, Mercury’s surface is full of impact craters, just like Earth’s moon.
During its five-year mission, NASA’s MESSENGER probe made interesting findings about Mercury that defied astronomers’ expectations. One of these findings was the discovery of water ice and frozen biological compounds in the north pole of Mercury, as well as the significant role of volcanic activity in the formation of the planet’s surface.
This image of Venus was captured in 2020 by NASA’s Mariner 10 probe.
- Discovery: It was known to the ancient Greeks and can be seen with the naked eye.
- Naming: Venus, derived from the name of the goddess of love and beauty in Roman mythology
- Diameter: 12,104 km
- Year: 225 Earth days
- Day: 241 Earth days
- Number of moons: zero
Venus is the second planet from the sun and the hottest planet in the solar system. The thick atmosphere of Venus is composed of compounds such as sulfuric acid clouds. Venus can be considered as one of the clear examples of the greenhouse effect.
The average surface temperature of Venus reaches 465 degrees Celsius and its surface pressure is 92 bar (9200 kilopascals), which can disintegrate a human being. Strangest of all, Venus rotates slowly and rotates against the direction of other planets, i.e. from east to west.
Venus is sometimes called Earth’s twin because the planet is close in size to Earth and, based on radar images, has numerous mountains and volcanoes. But in reality, Earth and Venus have many differences from each other.
Since Venus is the brightest object in the night sky after the moon, the Greeks thought that they were two different objects; Hesperus as a night star and Eospherus as a morning star. This very brightness is why Venus is sometimes mistaken for a UFO.
One of the most accurate pictures of the Earth. This composite image is the result of images recorded by the Processing Infrared/Visible Image Radiometer (VIIRS) of the Suomi NPP satellite.
- Name: Earth is derived from the German word “Die Erde” which means earth.
- Diameter: 12,760 km
- Year: 365.24 days
- Day: 23 hours and 56 minutes
- Number of moons: 1
Earth, our home, is the third planet from the Sun. Earth is a blue world with two-thirds of it covered by water. Earth’s atmosphere is rich in nitrogen and oxygen, making it the only life-friendly world we know.
The earth rotates at a speed of 467 meters per second. But this speed is slightly higher in the equator. The speed of the earth’s rotation around the sun reaches 29 km/s. Earth is also the largest rocky planet in the solar system and has one moon. According to scientists, an object hit the earth early in its formation and a piece of it was thrown into the sky and thus the moon was formed.
A mosaic image of the Vals Marineris hemisphere of Mars. This image is the result of combining 102 Viking orbiter images.
- Discovery: It was known to the ancient Greeks and can be seen with the naked eye.
- Name: Mars, derived from the name of the god of war in Roman mythology
- Diameter: 6787 km
- Year: 687 Earth days
- Day: 24 hours and 37 minutes
- Number of moons: 2
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun. This desert-like and cold planet is covered with iron oxide dust and therefore appears red. Mars has similarities with Earth. It is primarily rocky like Earth, has mountains and valleys, and has a storm system like Earth’s, ranging from small tornado-like ovens to dust storms that cover the entire planet.
Scientific evidence shows that Mars was a warmer and wetter world billions of years ago, and probably had rivers and maybe oceans flowing in it. Although the Martian atmosphere is too thin for surface liquid water to flow, wetter Martian remnants exist today. Martian ice sheets the size of the state of California are located under the surface of Mars, and on the other hand, both poles of Mars have water ice covers.
According to scientists, ancient Mars had the necessary conditions to support life such as bacteria and other microbes. They hope to find signs of this past life and possibly present life forms. This hypothesis became the basis for launching several missions to Mars; So that today the red planet is one of the most familiar and most explored objects in the solar system.
An extraordinary image of Jupiter captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on August 25, 2020.
- Discovery: It was known to the ancient Greeks and can be seen with the naked eye.
- Naming: Jupiter, derived from the name of the god of gods in Roman mythology
- Diameter: 139,822 km
- Year: 11.9 Earth years
- Day: 9.8 Earth hours
- Number of moons: 95
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and the largest planet in the solar system. This gas giant has twice the mass of all other planets in the solar system.
Jupiter’s swirling clouds are colorful due to the combination of a variety of materials such as ammonia ice, ammonium hydrosulfide crystals, and water ice and vapor. One of Jupiter’s most famous features in its swirling clouds is the Great Red Spot, which is more than 16,000 kilometers in diameter and is so large that it can swallow almost three Earths.
Jupiter also has the strongest magnetic field and 95 moons, the most famous of which are Ganymede, Io, Callisto, and Europa, also known as the Galilean moons.
The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of Saturn during the Northern Hemisphere summer on July 4, 2020.
- Discovery: It was known to the ancient Greeks and can be seen in the night sky with the naked eye.
- Naming: Saturn, derived from the name of the god of agriculture in Roman mythology
- Diameter: 120,500 km
- Year: 29.5 Earth years
- Day: approximately 10.5 hours by land
- Number of moons: 145 moons
Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun, is famous for its huge and bright ring system. Although Saturn is not the only ringed planet in the solar system. When Galileo first studied Saturn in the early 1600s, he thought it was a three-part mass: a planet and two large moons on either side. He didn’t know he was seeing a ringed planet. More than 40 years later, Christian Huygens proved the existence of Saturn’s rings.
Like Jupiter, Saturn is a gas giant and the least dense planet in the solar system. This planet also has a large number of moons, according to the latest statistics, their number reaches 145. With this number of moons, Saturn is considered the king of the solar system’s moons. Enceladus is one of Saturn’s moons covered with an icy ocean, which astronomers say could be a promising target for extraterrestrial life.
Saturn’s rings are composed mostly of ice and rock, and scientists are still unsure how they formed.
Image of Uranus captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
- Discovery: 1781 by William Herschel (before this date people thought Uranus was a star).
- Naming: the embodiment of heaven and the name of one of the gods in Greek mythology
- Diameter: 51,120 km
- Year: 84 Earth years
- Day: 18 hours on land
- Number of moons: 27
The planet Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, has strange and unique features. The clouds of Uranus are composed of hydrogen sulfide, which is the same chemical that causes eggs to rot and smell bad. In the second degree, like Venus, Uranus rotates from east to west, but unlike Venus or any other planet, its equator is perpendicular to its orbit and it can be said to rotate sideways.
According to astronomers, a mass twice the size of Earth collided with Uranus about 4 billion years ago and caused Uranus’ extreme axial deviation. This deviation leads to marginal seasons with a duration of at least 20 years, so that sunlight shines on one pole of Uranus for 84 years.
It seems that the said collision transferred some of the rock and ice of Uranus into its orbit and these rocks and ice later formed the moons of Uranus. Methane in the atmosphere of Uranus is the main reason for its blue-green color. Uranus has 13 sets of rings.
The planet Uranus also holds the record for the coldest temperature recorded in the solar system, minus 224.2 degrees Celsius. The average temperature of Uranus reaches minus 195 degrees Celsius.
The planet Neptune
Neptune is the planet with the fastest winds in the solar system.
- Discovery: 1846
- Naming: Neptune, derived from the name of the god of water and sea in Roman mythology
- Diameter: 49,530 km
- Year: 165 Earth years
- Day: 19 hours on land
- Number of moons: 14
Neptune is the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun. The average temperature of Neptune in the upper part of the clouds reaches minus 210 degrees Celsius. This planet is about the same size as Uranus and is known for its strong supersonic winds.
Neptune was the first planet to be discovered using mathematics. German astronomer Johann Galle used mathematical calculations to find Neptune with a telescope.
Neptune is about 17 times heavier than Earth and has a rocky core. The main composition of Neptune is water, methane, and ammonia, which surround this rocky core. The speed of Neptune’s winds reaches 2000 km/h. This planet also has 14 moons.
The asteroid belt is located between Mars and Jupiter. According to NASA estimates, there are between 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids in the main asteroid belt that are larger than one kilometer in diameter. The dwarf planet Ceres with a diameter of approximately 950 km is located in this part of the solar system. Several asteroids have orbits that occasionally collide with Earth and other inner planets.
Astronomers have long suspected the existence of a band of icy material known as the Kuiper Belt, which lies beyond the orbit of Neptune at a distance of 30 to 55 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Since the 20th century, more than a thousand crimes have been discovered in this belt. According to scientists’ estimates, the Kuiper Belt probably hosts hundreds of thousands of icy bodies larger than 100 km, as well as almost a trillion comets.
Pluto, which today belongs to the group of dwarf planets, is located in the Kuiper belt. Of course, Pluto is not the only one, and Makimaki, Haumea, Eris, and Quavar are among the other known non-Neptunian objects from the group of dwarf planets. Aracut (Altima Tully) is also a binary asteroid located in the Kuiper Belt that was visited by the New Horizons probe in 2019.
A panoramic view of the dwarf planet Pluto
- Discovered: 1930 by Clyde Tamba
- Naming: Pluto or Pluton derived from the name of the god of the underworld in Roman mythology
- Diameter: 2301 km
- Year: 248 Earth years
- Day: 6.4 Earth days
- Number of moons: 5
The dwarf planet Pluto was once considered the ninth planet, but since 2006 it has been classified as a dwarf planet. The reason for this problem was the non-compliance with the existing criteria in the definition of the planet. According to the definition of the International Astronomical Union, a planet is a celestial body that firstly orbits the Sun, secondly has enough gravity to become a spherical or almost spherical body, and thirdly clears the vicinity of its orbit. be Pluto did not fit the third criterion of logic and therefore was removed from the group of planets.
Pluto has a highly elliptical orbit so it sometimes even interferes with Neptune’s orbit. On the other hand, Pluto’s orbit is not in the same plane as other planets, but it revolves around the Sun at an angle of 17.1 degrees above or below them.
Because of this strange orbit, Pluto was considered the eighth planet from the Sun from 1979 to early 1999, but on February 11, 1999, when it crossed the path of Neptune, it again became the most distant planet in the Solar System, until it was officially removed from the Sun in 2006. The group of planets is out.
Smaller than Earth’s moon, Pluto is a cold, rocky world with a thin atmosphere. On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons probe performed several low-altitude flybys around Pluto, presenting a new view of the dwarf planet to the scientific world that defied many expectations.
Pluto is actually a very active ice world, covered in glaciers, ice mountains, icebergs, and possibly even glaciers that spew ice made of water, methane, or ammonia.
The ninth planet
According to estimates, the hypothetical ninth planet has approximately 10 times the mass of Earth.
In 2016, researchers raised the possibility of the ninth planet . This object, also known as Planet X, is estimated to have 10 times the mass of Earth and orbits the star of our system at a distance between 300 and 1,000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. In fact, this planet’s year may last between 10,000 and 20,000 Earth years. Scientists have not been able to observe the ninth planet so far and have guessed its existence based on its gravitational effects on other objects in the Kuiper belt.
According to some hypotheses, the hypothetical ninth planet could be a primordial black hole that formed shortly after the Big Bang and was trapped by the solar system. Unlike black holes that result from the collapse of massive stars, primordial black holes were formed by gravitational perturbations less than a second after the Big Bang and may be very small (as little as five centimeters in diameter), making them difficult to detect.
Astronomers have not yet reached a clear conclusion regarding the ninth planet. Based on a 2022 survey by the ACT telescope in Chile, there are thousands of candidate sources for the planet, but none have yet been confirmed.
Edge of the solar system
The heliosphere surrounds the solar system like a bubble and its boundary is called the heliopass.
By passing through the Kuiper belt, we reach the edge of the solar system or the Heliopass. The heliosphere is a vast, tear-shaped region of space with a large amount of charged particles received from the sun. According to many astronomers, the boundary of the heliosphere, which is called the heliopass, is approximately 15 billion kilometers from the sun.
The Oort cloud is located after the Kuiper belt at a distance of 2,000 to 2,500 AU from the Sun, and the distance of its outer edge from the Sun is estimated to be between 10,000 and 100,000 AU. As mentioned in the previous sections, one astronomical unit is approximately equal to 150 million kilometers. The Everett Cloud is home to billions or perhaps trillions of particles.
The largest planets in the solar system
Jupiter compared to other planets
Jupiter is by far the largest planet in the solar system, so if you add the mass of all the planets in the solar system together, Jupiter will still be two and a half times more. Compared to Earth, Jupiter is 318 times the size of Earth. The radius of this planet reaches 69,911 km or one-tenth of the sun. Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system. Saturn has 95 times the mass of Earth; however, it is the least dense planet in the solar system, so that it can float on water.
Discoveries and travels of the solar system
According to NASA, more than 254 probes have left Earth’s orbit so far. A large part of these spacecrafts and probes were dedicated to the exploration of the solar system.
Parker probe is the only spacecraft that managed to reach the closest distance to the Sun and will break this record in the coming years. The probe will release information about the solar radiation, surface, corona, and solar wind.
Famous probes such as NASA’s MESSENGER, Mariner 10, and Beppy Columbo have visited Mercury and revealed valuable information such as the discovery of water ice and the thin atmosphere of Mercury.
In general, 46 probes have visited Venus so far, the most successful of which are the Venus Express, Mariner 10, and Magellan missions. These probes released information about the atmosphere of Venus and its possible volcanic activity.
There are many satellites in the earth’s orbit whose task is to check weather and atmospheric conditions. Also, the International Space Station is the largest man-made structure in space, and astronauts are engaged in research work there.
In the last 60 years, six lunar landers have landed on the surface of the moon, the first of which was the Apollo 11 mission. Also, in recent years, orbiters were placed in the orbit of the moon, whose most important achievement was finding water ice around the poles of the moon. Space agencies aim to land on the surface of the Moon again in the coming years and use the Earth’s moon as a research base.
Apollo 11, the first human landing on another world.
Mars is the most explored planet in the solar system, which has been assigned more than 50 exploration missions. The most famous Mars missions include the Curiosity rover, Perseverance, and the MRO orbiter. Each of the Mars rovers and probes is investigating a certain area and so far they have published important and valuable data such as the discovery of water ice, polar ice cover, and methane on Mars. In the not-too-distant future, human explorations will be added to this collection.
Among the outer planets of the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn are two of the most explored examples. So far, eight spacecraft have been sent specifically to visit Jupiter, and two other probes have performed low-altitude flybys of the planet. The Juno probe is still in Jupiter’s orbit and has provided valuable information about Jupiter’s atmosphere and its important moons.
Voyager 2, is the first and so far the only probe to visit the planets Uranus and Neptune.
Cassini is the most famous probe that visited Saturn, and in addition to recording beautiful images of Saturn and sending information about its atmospheric conditions and rings, it investigated two important moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus. Two of Cassini’s most important discoveries in visiting these moons were the discovery of methane lakes on Titan and glaciers and ice oceans on Enceladus.
The two famous probes Voyager 1 and 2 successfully visited the outer planets of the outer solar system, including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Voyager 2 is the only probe that visited Uranus and Neptune up close.
New Horizons is the only probe to visit the dwarf planet Pluto, sending back important information about surface conditions, moons, and other Kuiper Belt objects.
In addition to the probes that visited the planets of the solar system, a series of missions were dedicated to the study of objects in the asteroid belt. Also, the Hubble and James Webb telescopes have sent important images and data from the solar system.
The solar system is a collection of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets around the sun. The planets of the solar system are divided into two groups: rocky and gaseous planets. Earth is a rocky planet and the only planet known to host life in the entire universe. So far, many probes have been sent to different planets of the solar system. Meanwhile, Mars is considered the most explored and familiar planet of the solar system, which mankind has made the most efforts to investigate. Today, humans are carrying out missions and building new probes to investigate the potential of life on the planets and moons of the solar system, and in this way, they will get help from ground and space telescopes.
The International Space Station
The International Space Station
The International Space Station, or ISS for short, is a multi-piece space structure that is placed in low Earth orbit and several elite astronauts live in it for a certain period of time, during various missions. The process of building the International Space Station started in 1998 and it is said that it can be used until 2028. As its name suggests, the International Space Station is a multinational project, and the cost of its construction and development is divided among several specific countries; But according to the statistics and evidence, it can be said that Russia and America are the main contractors of the project and provide most of the expenses related to the station. Every year, some astronauts are sent to the station and return to Earth to carry out some necessary research. The existence of the International Space Station is necessary to investigate the effects of living in space on the human body; Because soon man will travel to planets like Mars.
The International Space Station has been constantly being completed during its mission. The first structure of this station was launched into orbit in 1998 and the last module was installed on the station in 2011. NASA, Roscosmos (Russian space agency), Japan Space Agency, European Space Agency, and Canadian Space Agency are among the main contractors of the station and each of them has sent astronauts to the station. The budget of this station is provided internationally and the member countries are obliged to allocate a certain amount of their budget to the International Space Station every year. The cost of building the International Space Station until the moment of installation of the last module was 150 billion dollars, and for this reason, it is considered the most expensive structure of the human hand.
The International Space Station is the second home of humans in Earth orbit. People who go to the station experience zero gravity and are affected by the conditions of space. One of the reasons humans are stationed in the station is to measure the effects of space conditions on their bodies. When humans want to travel to planets like Mars, they have months to reach their destination; Therefore, during this period, they live in special conditions that will definitely have effects on their bodies. For this purpose, conducting a series of experiments in the International Space Station can reduce the risks of space travel.
The International Space Station is not the first station to be built in the Earth’s orbit, and before that, stations such as Mir, Salyut, Almaz, and Skylab were also built in the Earth’s orbit; But ISS is the largest and most advanced of them and its mission duration is longer than others. This station has certain intricacies that make it an engineering masterpiece. In this article, we intend to put the International Space Station under the microscope and take a close look at all the details of the most expensive human structure.
The history of the construction and development of space stations goes back to the time of the Cold War and the height of the space competition. When the Saturn 5 rocket was being developed by America and by Dr. Werner von Braun and his group, this German engineer always had the idea of building a space residence in his mind. In the same years, in order to be able to explain this idea to people in a better way, Hanzmenda created cinematic works in which space stations were depicted. These stations were circular and rotating; Because in the hypothetical case, they should have created artificial gravity with their rotation. In these movies, many people traveled to the station and started businesses there; The ships also moved towards the station like the ships that dock at the port. A similar idea was recently portrayed in the movie Elysium.
These stations were like hotels on the way, and humans could go to the moon or Mars from there. This idea was very timeless, But that was exactly what Dr. Brown had in mind. This idea is not applicable even today despite the advances, But scientists have been able to implement the original idea of building a space station, and this work was done for the first time by the Soviet Union. The first space station was launched in 1971, and since then, the United States and the Soviet Union have always had a station or stations in orbit. The first station that was placed in the earth’s orbit was the Salyut space station (Салю́т), which was considered a military scientific project the Soviet Union was very sensitive about it and tried not to reveal any details about it and not to be available to the Americans.
After the Salyut space station, it was the Americans’ turn to enter this field. Skylab was the first American space station in Earth orbit, which was sent into space at once by the Saturn V rocket in 1973. The Salyut station was a multiple project, the first of which was called Salyut 1, and actually, this station was a combination of the Almaz and Soyuz spacecraft systems. Almaz was a military system designed for space purposes by the Soviet Ministry of Defense, But later its usage was changed and it became a part of Salyut 1 station.
After the Soyuz 11 mission, the Soviet Union launched another space station called Salyut 2, which unfortunately was unsuccessful and did not reach Earth’s orbit. After this failed mission, the Soviet Union launched the Salyut 3, Salyut 4, and Salyut 5 space stations, and after the launch, the astronauts connected to the station with the help of the Saiz spacecraft and stayed there for a longer period of time to carry out new missions. Salyut stations were only connected to Soyuz spacecraft and it was not possible to connect them to other types of spacecraft. In September 1977, the Salyut 6 space station was launched, which had two entrances and the unmanned Progress spacecraft could also dock with it. Salyut 6 continued to work until 1982, and then it was replaced by Salyut 7, which was the last station of the Salyut project.
Salyut 7 was one of the news-making and controversial stations. This station was launched in 1982 and hosted 11 astronauts for 800 days; But in the same year, the Salyut 7 accident happened and the station was out of Soviet control. The electrical system of this station failed due to the impact of several cosmic bodies, and the station began to rotate in the earth’s orbit and the process of falling towards the earth began. The Soviet Union, which was under international pressure at the time, decided to launch two astronauts on a Soyuz spacecraft during a hasty mission to manually dock the rotating station and return it to a stable state. These two Russian astronauts managed to connect to the station and recover it, and this rescue operation is one of the most impossible missions in the history of aviation. The Salyut 7 space station later paved the way for the formation of the Mir space station project.
America, unlike the Soviet Union, did not invest much in the field of space stations, and before the development of the International Space Station, Skylab was the first and only American space station. Skylab was launched in 1973, But it was damaged during the launch and 2 of its solar panels were completely fragmented and another solar panel did not open completely. These events caused Skylab to have little electrical power in the circuit and the station’s temperature regulation system did not work well. To solve this problem, the United States launched the manned spacecraft Skylab 2 so that the astronauts could repair the station. These astronaut engineers were able to successfully repair the station bring it to a stable state and stay in the station for 28 days.
Orbital workshop, weatherproof module, multiple docking station, Apollo telescope unit, and Apollo spacecraft were among the constituent parts of Skylab. The Skylab 3 and 4 missions, whose crews stayed on the station for 59 and 84 days, respectively, docked with the station after the Skylab 2 mission. Skylab was not a permanent station, and the US intended to use it solely as a space laboratory to measure the effects of flights lasting a week to a month on the human body. Skylab 3 was the last mission to dock with the station, and the Skylab space station entered the Earth’s atmosphere much earlier than expected due to rapid orbital rotation caused by collision with intense solar activity and burned up in the sky over Australia.
Another space station was the Soviet Mir station, which was launched and assembled in 1986. Mir was considered the most advanced man-made space station at that time and was operational for 10 years. The first astronauts who went to the station were the same astronauts who performed the rescue operation of Salyut 7. These people stayed at Mir station for 75 days and then returned to Earth. The Mir space station consists of parts such as the life module (bathroom and kitchen, etc.), the mediating part, the assembly part, the Quantum 1 astrophysics module, the Quantum 2 airtight and scientific module, the Crystal technological module, the Specter module, the Periroda remote sensing module, The docking module was formed by the unmanned Progress spacecraft and the Soyuz spacecraft.
In 1994, Russia allowed the United States to allow American astronauts to spend some time at the Mir station to prepare for the International Space Station. Worried about the high costs of maintaining the Mir station, Roscosmos decided to partner with NASA; But the Russian government did not agree and said that it is better to abandon the station so that all the focus is on the International Space Station. Mir was a permanent space station, But the Russian government decided to direct it to the ground and destroy it. Finally, in 2001, the remnants of the Mir space station fell into the South Pacific Ocean.
According to the information we have obtained, we now know that the ISS is the ninth habitable space station in Earth orbit, It was developed after Diamond, Salyut, Skylab, and Mir, and perhaps inspired by them. The process of building the International Space Station began in 1998; But the first astronauts who stayed there were launched into space during the Expedition 1 mission on November 2, 2000. Since then, more than 17 years have passed and this is the longest presence of a space station in low Earth orbit. Before the International Space Station, the record for the longest stay of a space station in orbit was held by the Mir space station with 9 years and 357 days. The cargoes required for the International Space Station are transported to the station with the help of spacecraft such as Russia’s Soyuz and Progress, America’s Dragon and Cygnus, Japan’s H-II, and Europe’s transfer system. Before the cancellation of the space shuttle program, it was also possible to connect these shuttles to the station. The International Space Station has hosted astronauts, cosmonauts, and tourists from 17 different countries.
According to the contract signed between NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos, it was decided that the International Space Station will be a laboratory in low Earth orbit, where necessary investigations will be carried out to improve future space travel. NASA had predicted that humans will travel to Mars in the future and dangers are threatening them; Therefore, it is necessary to measure the results of being in space on the body in the International Space Station so that there are no problems for astronauts in future trips. In 2010, the US Space Flight Agency announced that the ISS had more potential and could be used for educational purposes and to share information with the public in the form of television programs.
Construction of the station
The construction of the International Space Station officially began in November 1998. Russia was the first country to produce the initial modules of the station, and all of these modules, except for the Razovet module, were robotically connected in space. The other modules of the station were launched by the American space shuttles and connected by the shuttle crew using the Canadarm2 robotic arm. By June 5, 2011, when the construction process of the station was completed, 159 pieces had been connected during 1000 hours of spacewalk, and this was considered a record. 127 spacewalks were performed by the station’s crew, and the remaining 32 were performed directly inside the shuttles and airlocks. Scientists on the ground had to constantly calculate the station’s beta angle and provide it to the astronauts so that the work went as well as possible. Beta is the angle between the orbital plane of a satellite and the solar radiation vector and shows how much energy a satellite receives during solar radiation to generate electricity. For the engineers who were building the station in space, the beta angle was of particular importance; Because it showed how many hours they were exposed to sunlight during the docking operation, and if the beta was not calculated, the shuttle could not be placed correctly on some modules during some limited hours.
The first module of the International Space Station is the Zarya module (Заря́) which was launched on November 20, 1998, by the Russian Proton self-propelled rocket. Zarya was a module that could provide the necessary propulsion power to be placed in the orbit, control the height, and also provide the necessary electrical power; unfortunately, it did not have enough facilities to be used for a long-term stay. Two weeks after Zarya, the United States launched the Unity module (Unity) in the STS-88 mission with the help of the space shuttle and several crew members. The Unity module was attached to the Zaria module by astronauts who performed several hours of spacewalk. Unity had two pressure-coupled adapters, one connecting to Zaria and the other to the space shuttle. At the same time, the Mir space station was still in orbit and could host the crew.
The International Space Station was uninhabitable for two years, and the Mir station was gradually decommissioned. On July 12, 2000, Russia launched the Zvezda (Zvezda) module into space. The Roscosmos space agency had planned Zivezda to deploy its solar arrays and communications antenna before connecting to Unity and Zaria. This module itself had a command center and was autonomous, But Zaria and Unity were controlled and commanded by ground stations. Zyuzda was the most advanced module to be attached to the ISS. After connecting Zyuzda to other modules, the task of controlling the overall structure of the station was taken from Zarya and given to Zyuzda. Zivzda was a large module where there were sleeping quarters for the crew, a kitchen, carbon dioxide scrubbers, humidifiers, oxygen generators, sports equipment, radio and television connected to the mission control system, etc. Zvezda was the module that made the ISS habitable for the first time.
The first crew of the International Space Station, in the form of the Expedition 1 mission and with the help of the Russian Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft, connected to the space station in November 2000. Late on the first day of the mission, astronaut Bill Shepard of NASA and cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyov of the Russian space agency, as two members of the Expedition 1 crew, announced in a radio message that they wanted to name the station Alpha. Alpha had previously been considered for the station’s naming, But America and Russia had in mind the name ISS. Now that the two astronauts had applied, NASA and Roscosmos decided to rename the Expedition 1 mission to Alpha. Shepard believed that they should name the entire station Alpha; Because alpha is always a reminder of being first. In a speech, he announced that this is the first experience of a long-term stay in space and that we are considered the pioneers of staying in space. NASA had agreed to some extent, But Russia said that this is not true and the Mir station has been habitable before, and if the name Alpha is to be chosen, Mir should be Alpha.
For two years after this mission, the station was still expanding. In 2001, a Soyuz rocket carried the Pierce Multiplexer into space. A pier is a connecting section that has vents to connect the manned Soyuz and the unmanned Progress spacecraft and acts as a trike. The space shuttles Atlantis, Discovery, and Endor also brought the Destiny Laboratory and the Quest airlock into space to dock with the station. In addition, for the first time, the Canadarm2 robotic arm and several other parts were also attached to the body of the station. Everything was going well and according to the plan until the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia disrupted the program. In 2003, the space shuttle Columbia exploded in the sky and killed all its passengers. This incident caused a two-year hiatus in NASA’s space shuttle program. The space shuttle program was suspended until 2005 when it was finally restarted with the launch of the space shuttle Discovery.
The process of assembling the modules of the space station started again in 2006 with the launch of the shuttle Atlantis in the STS-115 mission. During this mission, NASA attached the second set of solar arrays needed by the station to the main structure. The next three NASA missions also connected other body components and the third series of solar arrays to the station, and as a result, the power generation capacity of the station was completed. After Russia and America were sure about the power supply of the station, they started the process of sending the next modules. The Harmony Node and the Columbus Laboratory (belonging to the European Space Agency) were among the modules that were attached to the body of the station and other modules. Soon after the connection of these two modules, the Japanese Space Agency announced that the first part of the Kibo laboratory was produced and ready to be sent.
In March 2009, the STS-119 mission completed the construction of the subsystems and was able to install the fourth and final group of solar arrays on the hull of the station. The second and last part of Japan’s Kibo Laboratory was connected to the station by the STS-127 shuttle mission in July 2009, and then the Poisk module (По́иск), or the small research module, was launched by Russia. In February 2010, the STS-130 mission, carried by the space shuttle Endor, attached the third node, or Tranquility, to the station, along with the Cupola observation tower. A few months later, Russia also launched one of its last modules called Razvet (Рассве́т). Russia did not carry out the launch itself, but entrusted the task of the launch to the Atlantis space shuttle and paid the cost of the launch. Earlier, the US had financed the launch of the Proton rocket that launched the Zarya module into space in 1998.
On its last mission in February 2011, Discovery delivered the Leonardo Pressurization Module to the station, and in the same year, the space shuttle Endor also docked the Alpha Electromagnetic Spectrometer during mission STS-134. As of June 2011, the space station consisted of 15 pressurization modules and an integrated structure, and member states declared that all major equipment was installed on the station and that anything launched after that would be considered auxiliary equipment. Currently, 5 other modules are in the launch queue. These modules are:
- The Nauka module (Нау́ка), which is a Russian multipurpose laboratory, connects to the Zyuzda module.
- The European Space Agency’s robotic arm
- Узловой module, which is a Russian spacecraft
- NEM-1 power supply module
- NEM-2 power supply module
The Russian Space Agency has announced that the Nauka module will most likely be launched in the last quarter of this year along with the robotic arm of the European Space Agency. After the Nauka module docks with the space station, Russia will also launch the Yuzloy module to connect to one of the Nauka module’s docking ports. When these 5 modules are connected to the station, the total weight of the station will be more than 400 tons. The net weight of the station constantly changes over time; Because newer modules are always added to the station. By September 2011, when the construction of the station was completed, its total weight was 417 tons. Of course, this is considering only the weight of the station structure itself and ignoring the weight of water tanks, gas tanks, laboratory equipment, clothes and personal belongings of astronauts, food, connected spacecraft, and other things.
The International Space Station is a third-generation modular space station. A modular structure allows the body of the station to be changed to suit different missions and new parts can be added or removed from the structure. Also, the modular structure has flexibility and its shape is not static.
The main modules of the station
As mentioned earlier, the International Space Station is made up of several different modules; But some of these modules are original and other modules are installed on top of these modules. Zaria, Unity, Zyvesda, Destiny, Quest, Pierce and Poisk, Harmony, Tranquility, Columbus, Kibo, and Coppola are among the core modules of the International Space Station currently installed on the station. There are a number of other modules that are going to be connected to the station soon, which we will also mention. In the following, we will examine each of these modules and their features.
Zarya, which is also known by the Russian name Заря́ meaning dawn, is the first module of the International Space Station that was launched by the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) and placed in orbit. The task of Zaria was to provide electricity, propulsion, and positioning of the International Space Station in the early stages of construction and production. When the other modules were launched and attached to Zaria, Zaria had no special function and is now used as a storage area. Zarya is actually a more advanced version of the Russian TKS spacecraft that was used to connect to the Salyut space station. As mentioned, Zaria means dawn; Because it was supposed to usher in a new era in spaceflight. Zaria was built by a Russian company, But the main owner of that company was the United States of America.
Initially, Zaria was supposed to act as one of the modules of the Mir space station; But unfortunately, Zaria was not ready until the Mir space station was stable. Zarya has the ability to maintain a station in orbit and, due to the batteries that are placed inside its body by default, it has the ability to provide power to one or more other modules until the solar arrays are launched. Zarya weighs 19,323 kg, is 12.56 meters long and 4.11 meters wide at its widest point, and is considered a medium module in terms of size. Zarya can be connected from three different parts, one of them is located exactly in the front part, another one is in the ground part and the other one is placed in the back part. The Unity module is connected to the Zarya’s front connector with the help of a push-fit adapter. The Zyuzda module is also connected to the end of Zarya, and its ground connection valve is also connected to the Soyuz and Progress spacecraft that come to the station. Not long ago, the Razovet module was attached to the downward docking port of Zarya, and now if a spacecraft arrives at the station, it must be attached to the Razovet module first.
Zaria has two solar arrays 10.67 meters long and 3.35 meters wide and 6 nickel-cadmium batteries that can produce 3 kilowatts of electricity. Zaria has 16 external fuel tanks that can hold 5.4 tons of fuel. Zarya has 24 large thrusters, 12 small thrusters, and two large engines that were used for the station’s orbital changes. Since the Zyuzda module connected with the station, Zarya’s engines were disabled; Because with Zyuzda, Zarya engines were no longer needed. Zarya’s fuel tanks are now used as a place to store the fuel needed by Zyuzda.
On November 20, 1998, Zarya was launched by a Russian Proton rocket from the launch pad of Cosmodrome 81 in Kazakhstan to an altitude of 400 km. Zarya was originally designed to have a useful life of 15 years and be able to fly autonomously for 6 to 8 months; But due to the delay in the launch of the Zyuzda module, Zarya had to move autonomously for more than two years. At first, Zaria’s battery charging circuits had problems; But gradually these problems were solved by Russian cosmonauts.
The Unity module, also known as Node 1, is the first American module of the International Space Station launched by NASA. Unity uses a cylindrical design and can be connected to the station and other modules from 6 separate points. Unity is 4.57 meters in diameter and 5.47 meters long and was jointly developed by NASA and Boeing at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Unity is the first docking module of the space station, followed by Harmony and Tranquility modules.
Unity was the main cargo of the space shuttle Endor, which was launched as part of the STS-88 mission. This mission was the first space shuttle mission to connect to the station. In space, before reaching the Zaria module, the rear end of the Unity module was attached to the Endor shuttle, and then they moved towards the Zaria module until they finally managed to attach the upper part of the Unity to the front section of the Zaria. Unity has 2 axial connection systems and 4 radial connection systems, and in addition to connecting to Zaria, it is connected to parts such as Destiny Lab, Z1 Integrated Structure, PMA-3 Pressure Connecting Adapter, Quest Airtight Knee, Leonardo Multipurpose Module and Raffaello Multipurpose Module Is. During the STS-120 mission, the Harmony module was also attached to the Unity side port. Tranquility and Coppola also docked with the Unity module during the STS-130 mission.
Some of the essential resources of the space station, such as fluids, life support systems, electrical systems, and data support systems, are precisely located in Unity to provide the necessary conditions for living in different parts of the station. More than 50,000 mechanical parts, 216 liquid and gas transmission lines, and 121 hidden and covered electrical cables (6 miles of cable) have been installed in the Unity node. The overall material of the module is aluminum and stainless steel.
Zvezda, also known by the Russian name Звезда́ meaning star, is a Russian command and service module. Zvezda, the third module and one of the most important parts of the International Space Station, was able to provide everything needed to support life on the station after the launch. Zvezda was launched into space by a Russian Proton rocket on July 12, 2000, and connected to the Zarya module on July 26 of the same year. The Zyvezda module was built by the Russian company RKK Energia, which is one of the main contractors of the International Space Station.
The main frame of the Zyuzda structure was first built in the mid-1980s and was to be used as the core of the Mir-2 space station. In fact, for a while, this module was called Mir-2. The construction of the main part of this frame was completed in 1985 and the equipment was installed on it in October 1986. Zyuzda has a cylindrical design and is built in such a way that the crew can live and work in it. Zyuzda has a total of four connecting valves that are used to connect to other masoles. The total weight of Zyuzda is 18051 kg and it is 13.1 meters long. Solar panels are also installed on Zivzda, which are 29.7 meters long when opened.
Zivzda has 14 windows, two of which have a diameter of 230 mm, and two crews sleep in the compartments. Six other windows with 230 mm diameter glass are located on the lower floor of Zyuzda and face the ground. One of the windows, which has a diameter of 410 mm, is located in the Zyuzda workshop. Other Zyuzda windows are placed in the transfer chamber and the laboratory part, respectively.
On July 26, 2000, Zyvezda successfully docked with the Zarya module, officially becoming the third module of the ISS. On September 11, 2000, the two crews of the STS-106 mission completed the final stages of connecting Zarya and Zivzda. This find was made during a spacewalk of 6 hours and 14 minutes by American astronaut Ed Lowe and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Melenchenko. They successfully connected 9 cables between Zarya and Zivzda. Zivzda was a module where there were places for the crew to sleep, a kitchen, carbon dioxide scrubbers, humidifiers, oxygen generators, sports equipment, radio and television connected to the mission control system, etc.
As Russia faced financial difficulties, it did not produce any supporting versions of Zyuzda; Therefore, the risk of launch was greatly increased. NASA decided to produce the Interim control module, which could launch this module as a backup if something went wrong during the launch. Fortunately, the launch was successful and Zyuzda did not have the slightest problem.
Destiny, also known as the American Laboratory, was the first American laboratory module that was attached to the space station. Dastini was connected to the Unity module by connecting valves. Destiny is NASA’s first research laboratory in Earth orbit after the destruction of the Skylab space station. The design and production of this module are under the responsibility of Boeing and the construction process of this 16-ton structure began in 1995 at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Destiny was transferred to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 1998; But due to interruptions in NASA’s plans and conducting a series of necessary tests, the launch was postponed until 2000. The Destiny Module was launched into space on February 7, 2001, by the Space Shuttle Atlantis as part of the STS-98 mission.
On February 10, 2001, Destiny arrived at the space station and was docked with the Unity module by the Canadian of the space shuttle Atlantis. Destiny has an aluminum structure and uses a cylindrical design. This module is 8.5 meters long and 4.3 meters in diameter. The front part of Destini is connected to the Unity module and its end part is also connected to node number 2. A glass window with a diameter of 510 mm is also placed on one side of the door that has a view of the ground. Destiny’s total weight is declared as 14520 kg, which is considered average.
The Quest airlock knee, formerly known as the airlock knee module, is the first airlock of the International Space Station. Quest is designed in such a way that astronauts can enter space directly in space and stabilize the air pressure. In this airlock, astronauts can enter in Russian and American clothes and there is no problem in this regard. Until the launch of this module in 2001 and in the form of the STS-104 mission, Russian astronauts who used their special suits had to enter the station through the Zyuzda module, and American astronauts only entered the space shuttle connected to the station. The station could enter the interior of the station.
The Quest module consists of two main parts; One for keeping the spacesuits and the other for when the astronauts want to leave or enter the station. These two parts are completely isolated from each other. It was necessary to build the quest module; Because the American astronauts, who had their own spacesuits, could not enter the station through the Russian Mazul Zyuzda airlock, and it was not possible to enter from other parts either.
Pierce and Poisk modules
Пирс and По́иск are two Russian airlock modules, each of which has two different valves. Pierce was launched in August 2001 and provided a docking station for the Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. It also made it possible for Russian cosmonauts wearing Orlan-designed spacesuits to enter and exit the station. Pierce was supposed to be separated from the station by the Progress spacecraft in 2017 and fall towards the Earth to make room for the Russian Nauka laboratory; Lamel, due to the delay in the construction of the Naoka laboratory, the separation process of Pierce was also postponed until the end of 2018.
Poisk is another Russian docking module that was launched and attached to the station in 2009. Poisk was the first Russian module of the station to be launched after 2001. Poisk generally uses Pierce’s design. Pierce is connected to the lower part of the Zyuzda module, But Poisk is attached to its upper part. Poisk in Russian means search and discovery, and for this reason, it has a series of scientific tools and equipment.
Harmony, also known as Node 2, is the second American node of the International Space Station. This module has the ability to provide electricity and electronic data of the bus, and due to having 6 connection valves, it can be connected to different parts of the station. European Columbus module, Japanese Kibo Labs connected to Harmony Radial Valves. Harmony’s upper and lower hatches are also used to dock spacecraft arriving at the station. Dragon, Cygnus, and HTV spacecraft are typically attached to these vents. By 2011, space shuttles were also docked at the bottom of Harmony.
This module was initially known as node number 2; But in March 2007, NASA named it Harmony. At that time, NASA held a name competition among 32 American states, in which 2,200 kindergartens participated, and Harmony was chosen among the proposed names. At that time, NASA presented the children with information about the space station and asked them to build a small model and choose a name for it. Harmony in the term means the center that hosts scientific works. Harmony was launched on October 23, 2007, as part of the STS-120 mission and arrived at the station 3 days later.
Tranquility, also known as Node 3, was built by the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. In February 2010, NASA sent this module into space with the help of a space shuttle. The task of controlling and commanding this module was assigned to NASA from the very beginning. This node has 6 connecting valves, But one of them is still inactive because the rocket it was supposed to connect to was never launched.
In this node, more necessary life support equipment is placed and there is also a water purification system. The water purification system of this node can turn the astronauts’ urine into drinking water again if needed. The crew can use the oxygen generators in this node when necessary. The connecting valves of this node are each connected to a part. The first valve is connected to the Unity module, the heart of the station, and the others are connected to the Assonardo module, the Bigelow expandable module, the pressure connection valve number 3, and the Copola module.
Columbus is the first European research laboratory of the space station. In this module, there is a small laboratory and facilities for biological research and fluid physics. Several special bases are placed on the outside of this module, on which equipment can be installed to provide data and electrical energy necessary for external laboratory equipment. The European Space Agency plans to expand the space station to study quantum physics and cosmology. The European Space Agency is always trying to improve the life support systems of this module and make it still usable for the next 20 years.
Kibo is a Japanese laboratory and also the largest module of the International Space Station. Scientists use this laboratory to study space medicine, biology, earth observation, materials production in space, biotechnology, and the development of communication technologies. In this laboratory, there is equipment that can be used to grow flowers in space. In August 2011, the MAXI observatory was installed on the Kibo module. The observatory uses the orbiting orbit of the space station to take X-ray images of the entire sky. This observatory was able to observe a star being swallowed by a black hole for the first time.
This module consists of 23 different sections, 10 of which are laboratory sections. This module also has an air seal for testing. Another pressurized module is attached to the top of the Kibo, which mostly serves as a compartment for additional equipment.
The cupola is an observatory that has 7 windows and is used to observe the Earth and connect other spacecraft. The name of this module is inspired by the Italian word copola which means dome. The construction of the Coppola module was done by NASA and Boeing; But due to lack of funds, the work was stopped. Sometime later, in an agreement between NASA and the European Space Agency, this organization agreed to pay part of the cost, and thus the construction process resumed in 1998.
Boeing was no longer the contractor for this project and its construction was handed over to the Italian Space Agency. This module has 7 small glass windows and a circular window with a diameter of 80 cm, which is the largest window of the space station so far.
The future of the station
As it was said at the beginning, the station is supposed to remain operational until 2028; on the other hand, NASA will probably stop cooperating with the project until 2024, and stopping NASA’s cooperation will probably mean the end of the space station. It was in 2014 that the US Congress announced that it had to decide on the International Space Station and see if it could still be funded. Finally, in the same year, Congress announced that it would retire the International Space Station in 2024 and not fund it. With these interpretations, there are only six years left in the life of the International Space Station; Only seven years, and then it is not clear what is going to happen.
NASA spends the other half of its budget on rover missions, sending humans to Mars or sending to an asteroid. If NASA is to expand its projects and enter space exploration into a new field, it will no longer be able to allocate three to four billion dollars of its annual budget to the International Space Station. Of course, this is not a decision made by NASA; Rather, Congress and especially the White House decide how much funding NASA receives.
As mentioned at the beginning, one of the ways that NASA can investigate how to send humans to other planets is to test this work on the International Space Station. This station has a microgravity environment (weightlessness of humans and other objects) and is outside the Earth’s atmosphere; This means that scientists of all sciences can conduct their own experiments on the station to observe the effects of space on everything. Also, in this station, the effects of long-term human stay in a zero-gravity environment are measured. Recently, some politicians have said whether all the funds allocated to the International Space Station were worth it or not; Unfortunately, it seems that the United States Congress does not have a very good record of supporting applied sciences.
No one is saying that the International Space Station should be supported and funded forever. With the growing private sector and large companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, we hope that one day the International Space Station will be supported by the private sector. There are some companies that are interested in making equipment for use in space; These companies can pay huge sums of money just to be able to test their equipment on the International Space Station. Maybe Elon Musk will decide to add this station to his company’s subsidiary; no one knows However, in the next two years, 5 more modules will be connected to the International Space Station, which will be used for different applications; But different countries are still waiting for NASA’s green light for the station to be operational by 2028.
As mentioned at the beginning, the International Space Station is the most expensive man-made integrated structure. In 2010, it was announced that the total cost of the station is likely to be around $150 billion, of which $72.4 billion belongs to NASA. The Russian Space Agency spent $12 billion, the European Space Agency $5 billion, the Japanese Space Agency $5 billion, and the Canadian Space Agency spent $2 billion to build the station. The cost of launching each shuttle was 1.4 billion dollars, and by calculating the 36 launches and the cost of construction, it can be said that this process alone cost 50.4 billion dollars. With another calculation, we can find out that in 15 years, the daily cost of each crew member at the station was 7.5 million dollars.
- 16 countries are members of the International Space Station project. These countries are the United States of America, Russia, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
- The International Space Station orbits at a speed of approximately 8 kilometers per second, which means that the space station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes.
- You might think that your apartment or house has more space than the space station, But it is interesting to know that this station has a total length of 109 meters provides a lot of space for the crew and has a lot of rooms.
- The International Space Station is the largest man-made structure in space and has a total of 1141829 cubic centimeters of internal space.
- There are only two toilets throughout the station. The water used in these services, together with the astronauts’ urine, is re-purified and turned into drinking water.
- Being in space does not mean being safe from computer viruses. There are 52 computers in the space station, each of which has been infected with the virus more than once. For the first time, these computers were infected with a worm designed to steal computer game passwords.
- The International Space Station is the only place in space where you can smell the smallest things. One of the astronauts said that he felt a special smell like the ionization of metal. Such a smell is rarely felt on earth.
- The International Space Station is the brightest object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus, and if the weather is clear, you can see the space station with the naked eye.
- Being in space destroys bone tissue and muscles. Therefore, astronauts should exercise two hours a day to avoid any problems.
- In total, 12.87 kilometers of cables have been used in the space station, which is more than the cables used in New York’s Central Park.
- Astronauts eat only three meals a day and do not know if they are sitting or not while eating; Because sitting in the space makes no sense at all, and there are no special seats in the station’s kitchen.
In general, it can be said that the International Space Station is a masterpiece of human engineering in space. This station was built thanks to the great experience of Russia and America and it allocates a lot of budget annually. The existence of this station in the Earth’s orbit is very necessary; Because in the near future, humans will travel to the moon, Mars, and other planets, and they must make the necessary preparations in the space station. It is still unclear what will happen to the International Space Station and what NASA will decide about it.
With the growth of private organizations such as SpaceX, it seems that this project will be left to the private sector and NASA will focus on other sectors. However, the space station is currently the only place in space where humans can go; Because humans haven’t left Earth’s lower orbit for almost 50 years.
The International Space Station owes its existence to stations such as Salyut, Almaz, Mir, and Skylab, and maybe if these stations were not built, the ISS would not have progressed to this extent. Of course, we should not forget Dr. Werner von Braun, the creator of the Southern 5 rocket; Because he proposed the idea of building a space station for the first time. We are still in the early stages of space station development. The International Space Station has made significant progress over Salyut, Skylab, and Mir; But we still have a long way to go to make the big space stations and colony-centered ones a reality as written by science-fiction writers.
It seems that in the future space stations will have artificial gravity, and none of our stations currently have gravity. Another reason is that we lack the technology to actually spin a massive system like a space station, so we can’t create artificial gravity.
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