If you look up some 250 miles into the sky at the right time with the right weather conditions, you just might see the International Space Station (ISS). It is visible to the human eye without the need for any special equipment.
The optimum ISS viewing period is within a few hours before or after sunrise or sunset, as the sun reflects on the space station and contrasts it against the darker sky.
The space station has been circling the earth approximately every 93 minutes since 1998. That’s 15.5 times per day, 365 days per year for almost 24 years, or a total of 135,780 orbits come November 8th.
The circumference of the earth (or 1 orbit) is 24,901 miles. Let's do some more math. 24,901 miles x 15.5 orbits per day = 385,965 miles per day x 365 days per year = 140,877,408 miles per year x 24 years in orbit = 3.4 billion miles on the odometer.
Space is cool, no doubt about it. Here is a favorite moment of mine aboard the ISS with affable, guitar-swinging Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, David Bowie performing Space Oddity (attempted by Hadfield in space) and some fascinating explanations about space myths:
It’s been a good ride. But now Russia says it’s pulling out. Should we be surprised? Not really, the life expectancy of the ISS was originally only expected to be 15 years. In 2024, the current arrangements for its international operations end, and it’s time to move on.
“What we don’t want to have happen is where we’re spending more time doing maintenance than we are doing research. At that point, the utility of the station starts to diminish.” (Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA)
Much has been learned in the almost quarter century during which the ISS has been in service. In the meantime, the space market has opened up to the private sector, which is well-poised to take on the commercialization of the business. Think Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Dylan Taylor’s Voyager Space Holdings and Northrop Grumman Systems (which pioneered the Flying Wing concept, culminating in the B-2 stealth bomber) – the main companies in the running to pull off the next step.
Is it sad to think that the co-operative program between the U.S., several European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK), Russia, Canada and Japan is coming to an end. It is kind of like the feeling when summer camp comes to an end, everyone boards the bus back into town and lives scatter.
NASA plans to decommission and deorbit the International Space Station – a process that will take several years, with a planned crash in the safety of the South Pacific Ocean in January 2031. Commercial replacement facilities will step in beforehand, allowing NASA to maintain a constant presence in low-earth orbit. Life goes on.
Now take what you’ve learned and play today’s ISS Quiz of the Day:
1. Download Quizefy app.
2. 250 free gems will be instantly deposited in your name
3. Start playing immediately for free
4. Have fun and Strut Your Smart!