Sometimes, when I see these kind of achievements, I makes me wonder why do we still live in misery, suffering... I mean, If human minds could reached that point where they are able to set hate aside and focus in working toghether to make such gigantic accomplishment, specially these two long time rivals (EE.UU. and RUSIA), don't you think???
The International Space Station (ISS) is an internationally developed research facility that is being assembled in low Earth orbit.The objective of the ISS, as defined by NASA, is to develop and test technologies for exploration spacecraft systems, develop techniques to maintain crew health and performance on missions beyond low Earth orbit, and gain operational experience that can be applied to exploration missions. The objective of the ISS, for the RKA, the Russian space agency, is a continuation of the "permanent Soviet human presence in low-Earth orbit".
On-orbit construction of the station began in 1998 and is scheduled for completion by mid-2012. The station is expected to remain in operation until at least 2020, and potentially to 2028. With a greater cross-sectional area than that of any previous space station, the ISS can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. The ISS is by far the largest artificial satellite that has ever orbited Earth. The ISS serves as a research laboratory that has a microgravity environment in which crews conduct experiments in biology, chemistry, medicine, physiology and physics, as well as astronomical and meteorological observations. The station provides a unique environment for the testing of the spacecraft systems that will be required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS is operated by Expedition crews of two to six astronauts and cosmonauts, with the station programme maintaining an uninterrupted human presence in space since the launch of Expedition 1 on 31 October 2000, a total of 10 years and 214 days. The programme thus holds the current record for the longest uninterrupted human presence in space, surpassing the previous record of 3,644 days, set aboard Mir. As of 16 March 2011, the crew of Expedition 27 is aboard.
The ISS is a synthesis of several space station projects that include the American Freedom, the Soviet/Russian Mir-2, the European Columbus and the Japanese Kibō. Budget constraints led to the merger of these projects into a single multi-national programme. The ISS project began in 1994 with the Shuttle-Mir programme, and the first module of the station, Zarya, was launched in 1998 by Russia. Assembly included the addition of pressurised modules, external trusses, and other components are launched by American space shuttles and Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets. As of March 2011, the station consists of fifteen pressurised modules and an extensive integrated truss structure (ITS). Power is provided by sixteen solar arrays mounted on the external truss, in addition to four smaller arrays on the Russian modules. The station is maintained at an orbit between 278 km (173 mi) and 460 km (286 mi) altitude, and travels at an average speed of 27,743.8 km/h (17,239.2 mph), completing 15.7 orbits per day.
The stations sections are operated by their builders, the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The ownership and use of the space station is established in intergovernmental treaties and agreements that allow the Russian Federation to retain full ownership of its own modules in the Russian Orbital Segment, with the US Orbital Segment, the remainder of the station, allocated between the other international partners. The cost of the station has been estimated by ESA as €100 billion over 30 years; estimates range from 35 to 160 billion US dollars. The financing, research capabilities and technical design of the ISS programme have been criticised because of the high cost. The station is serviced by Soyuz spacecraft, Progress spacecraft, space shuttles, the Automated Transfer Vehicle and the H-II Transfer Vehicle, and has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations.
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