The International Space Station, a worldwide project, is the next goal in a quickly growing space frontier. The station will be the first and next step towards researching the vast unknown world of outer space. What will be learned by this station? NASA has only the highest hopes that with the newest advancements in technology up in space, the fundamental physical, chemical, and biological processes can be examined with the absence of gravity, because of the space station.
The space station has been a long awaited project, as the first space station idea was drafted up in 1984. A resolution was made to place a permanent, livable space station in orbit. When President Ronald Reagan announced his 1984 State of the Union address, he included plans for a space station to be in orbit by the mid 1990’s. The idea of having an operable, livable, space station seemed to be inconceivable to everyone who heard that speech. As the ideas for this project began to take off, the main concern was money. How much funding would be necessary to construct a space station?
At first, NASA could only work within the agency’s estimated $8.5 billion dollar budget. It was in 1984 when the first construction plan was unveiled, called “Freedom.'; A “power tower'; concept was designed, which is a long slender unit that would be the center of the entire structure. This tower would be a long, narrow piece of latticework, chosen for its stability and to avoid the use of every day thrusts to maintain its altitude. All the laboratory modules would then surround the “power tower.'; A free-flyer module would be used to conduct experiments in incessant, stable conditions away form the main tower structure.
The “power tower'; concept required too many parts and shuttle missions for it to be completed. That would force the cost of the project to exceed NASA’s budget. The following year in 1985, a new, updated station concept was drafted. This was called the “dual keel'; concept, and included two vertical towers joined and braced together with three horizontal beams. This structure would allow four pressurized operable and livable modules to be placed around the central meeting points of the beams...
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A cooperative effort among 16 nations, the International Space Station will provide living quarters and science labs for long-term stays for up to seven astronauts. In building, operating, and performing research on the station, humanity will gather meaningful experience for future travels beyond Earth orbit.
While the station is certain to teach us more about the human body in space, reactions to extended periods in zero gravity, and the effects of these experiments, nothing in this project is guaranteed. NASA is optimistic, but has planned for the worse. Helping the ESA construct three expendable space vehicles by 2003 that could carry and fly the entire station back to earth if needed.
But perhaps the most telling part about this space station is that once completed it will be the size of a city block and will be one of the brightest objects in the sky. That is still years away, but like all great structures ever built, this may be the most dangerous and expensive. The ISS will be a spectacular, challenging experience for us all, and the world can only wait to see what the International Space Station will bring back to the human civilization.