The International Space Station

What is the i.s.s?

The i.s.s is a large spacecraft and science lab orbiting around the earth, where astronauts can live. It’s made up of parts that were assembled in space. It has 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a gymnasium, a big window and 6 people can live there at once.

This is the i.s.s

When was the I.S.S built?

The construction of the i.s.s started November the 20, 1998 when the first part of the i.s.s called the Zarya was sent into space on a Russian proton rocket. The Zarya provided propulsion, altitude control, communications and electrical power.

Which countries were involved?

There are 16 countries involved which include: United States (NASA), Russia (Russian federal space agency), Brazil, Canada (Canadian space agency), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and the European space agency (ESA). The ESA members that are involved include: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

What is the i.s.s used for?

The i.s.s is used as a research lab and observatory, where the crew could do experiments in different scientific fields such as: Astronomy, Meteorology, Biology, and Human Biology. The i.s.s also has opportunities to test spacecraft systems and equipment.

Eating in space

Some food can be eaten in normal form like: Brownies and fruit, but other foods include water such as: macaroni and cheese or spaghetti. An oven is is provided in the i.s.s to heat up foods but there are no refrigerators so space food must be stored and prepared properly to avoid things from spoiling. The salt and pepper on the i.s.s are provided in liquid form because an astronaut can’t sprinkle salt and pepper on their food because it would just float away. It’s also dangerous because they could clog the air vents and contaminate equipment.

This is salt and pepper both in liquid form

Exercising in space

It is important for astronauts to exercise in space because is they didn't their bodies would start to lose muscle and bone. There are 3 main exercise equipment astronauts use which are:

  1. The Cycle Ergometer: This is like a bicycle. The main activity is pedaling. It is used to measure fitness in space by checking heart rate and how much work is being done.
  2. Treadmill: Walking or jogging on the treadmill is like walking on earth. Walking is an important way to keep bones and muscles healthy.
  3. Resistance exercise device (RED): The RED can be used as a full body workout.

This picture shows someone using the Cycle Ergometer


There is no up or down in space but only microgravity, so astronauts sleep in sleeping bags that are attached to a wall so they don’t float around and bump into something. The astronauts usually sleep inside of small cabins just big enough for 1 person.



In space, water clings to your body instead of running down it, so astronauts have sponge baths instead of regular showers. On the i.s.s there is only a limited supply of water, so taking sponge baths also conserve water. The astronauts use a non rinse shampoo to wash their hair. They apply the shampoo using a towel while they constantly keep rubbing their hair and scalp then use another towel to wipe their hair clean.


Astronauts use the same toothpaste as on earth, and instead of rinsing their mouth with water then spitting into a sink, astronauts spit into a towel. Recently, astronauts have started using edible toothpaste to reduce water waste.

This shows Astronaut Chris Hadfield brushing in space

Effects on the body

On earth gravity is a force that works against us, which keeps our bones, muscles and cells strong. If you remove the force of gravity like in space, our body will undergo dramatic changes such as:

Bone loss:

Which is when being weightless causes the human body to excrete calcium and phosphorus and can lead to fractures, and weakness, but exercising can slow down the loss of bones but would take 2 or more years to repair them.

Muscle loss:

When astronauts don't use their muscles (mostly in their legs) to walk because they float. The underused leg muscles affect balance, posture, and strength.

Motion sickness:

Nausea and vomiting, symptoms include headaches, malaise and dizziness. It's caused by the blood circulation changes. Symptoms of space sickness usually wear off within two or three days as astronauts start to adapt.

Fluid shift:

The body no longer experiences the pull of gravity that distributes the blood and other body fluids to the lower part of the body. The fluids are redistributed to the upper part of the body. The fluid shift to the head can also lead to a feeling of congestion.

Canadian contributions

Canada’s contributions to the i.s.s were the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) which is robots that assembled the i.s.s piece by piece. The MSS is made up of the: Canadarm2 which is a 17m long robotic arm used to assemble the i.s.s, move equipment and even astronauts.

Dexter: A two armed robotic ‘handyman,’ used for routine maintenance like changing batteries.

Mobile base: A movable work platform and storage space, that slides on rails across the i.s.s to transport the Canadarm2, Dextre or equipment.

This is a picture of the Dextre

Interesting facts

  1. Astronauts working and living on the i.s.s see 16 sunrises and sunsets everyday.
  2. The cost of the i.s.s is believed to be $150 billion.
  3. The i.s.s flies at about 400 km high at speeds of 28800 km an hour.
  4. Astronauts get a little bit taller in space because, on earth the disks between the vertebrae of the spinal column are slightly compressed because of gravity, but in space that compression is no longer there causing the disks to expand.
  5. The i.s.s would weigh on earth almost 925000 pounds (419500 kg)

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