The International Space Station

This essay has a total of 2965 words and 10 pages.

The International Space Station

The International Space Station is the doorway to the future of mankind and the world as it is known.
The scientific and medical discoveries that will be made on the station could create billions of dollars
annually. A plan like this, arranged to benefit the whole world economy, should sound like a good idea to
every person, but some believe that the ISS is too risky, too ineffective, or too costly to create. Whether or
not the space station is worth the money, time, and effort, one thing is clear, everyone is interested in this
virtual floating laboratory and what assets or liabilities it will bring. The future of scientific
experimentation and exploration may be located, not on earth, but on the man made island called the
International Space Station.
Of all the factors that go into building a space station, construction of the massive object is the most
tedious objective. During the building of the ISS, tensions have run high several times when deadlines
were missed or funds were not available. This space station is the most expansive mission the world has
ever encountered. The International Space Station will be a fifteen country mission. When finished, it
will boast over an acre of solar panels for heating and energy, have a volume roughly sizable to two jumbo
jets, and contain four times the electrical power of the Russian space station, Mir. It will take
approximately forty-five flights over the next five years to assemble the one hundred pieces of the station
while circling the orbit of the earth (Goldin 11). This floating station, the size of a large football stadium,
which is traveling at over 17,500 miles per hour around the earth, will have a minimum life expectancy of
only ten years, although scientists hope for a much longer time. The station is so large that it will
sometimes be visible by the naked eye during the night (Chang 12). Many people agree with the idea of
some sort of space laboratory, but wonder why it has to cost so many tax dollars. Some estimates for the
station confirm that the cost has been underestimated by billions of dollars. Late last year Boeing beat out
several other competitors for the prestigious position of main contractor. NASA agreed to sign a 5.6
billion dollar contract with Boeing to build many of the essential parts of the space station. Russia is also
placing trust in this airplane superpower. They signed a 180 million dollar contract to build the Functional
Cargo Block, the unit that will provide power to stabilize the station (Bizony 87).
The International Space Station may provide many scientific discoveries, but everyone will pay for it.
This project will become the most expensive project in space since the 1969 mission of Apollo 13 to the
moon. The total estimated cost will be over twenty billion dollars (8).
On the International Space Station, there will be a large variety of experiments ranging from
improvements of industry to medical advances. The largest portion of time will be devoted to scientific
experimentation and discovery. The ISS will create advances that will assist scientists to better understand
the mysteries of the physical, chemical, and biological world. Without gravity they may conceive the
technological discoveries that will boost all economies (Goldin 11). One thing the astronauts will use in
their pursuit of knowledge is remote telescience. It is an advanced technology that allows scientists on the
ground to monitor the progress of the experiments on the station. This will keep people on Earth up to
date on the data collection that is occurring in space. Telescience will use interactive data and video links
to make the connection as realistic as possible (“Science Facilities” 7). The populous sometimes asks
what the station will do scientifically. The International Space Station will try to answer questions that
have bothered deep thinkers for years. The affect of no gravity on living things, any mental and physical
affect on humans in space, and the growth of better materials in space that will create better products on
Earth will all be explored in hopes of becoming better understood. Hopefully, scientists will be able to
answer these questions and many more on the International Space Station (Chang 12).
NASA has confirmed that microgravity, the almost weightless condition of space, is one of the
largest factors in the experiments that will occur aboard the International Space Station. The affects of
gravity and microgravity on animals, plants, cells, and microorganisms will be studied on the station.
Artificial gravity can be adapted from 0.01 G, almost entirely weightless, to 2G, twice the earth’s gravity,
to fit the experiment (Science Facilities 1). Gravitational biology is a major research topic dealing with
microgravity. It is the study of gravity’s influence on living things such as plants and animals. This will
help astronauts conclude definitely what will happen to humans on long trips and stays on Mars (6).
The Optical Window is a special window that will monitor natural events with cameras, sensors, and other
devices. The window will be able to track such disasters as oil spills, hurricanes, and forest fires (3).
“The ISS is our best effort to date to provide a laboratory environment where combustion can be
fully understood.” Combustion will help to better understand air pollution, global environmental heating,
propulsion, and hazardous waste incineration (Industrial Processes 3). The new experiments on
combustion could save the United States millions of dollars annually because it controls the heating of
homes, powering of cars, and the production of a large range of synthetic materials (4). Real combustion
cannot take place on Earth. So combustion will be studied in space. On the ground gravity feeds flames
with oxygen and takes away heat. The space station’s combustion facility will do research on gas, liquid,
and solid fuels which already yields eighty-five percent of the world’s energy production (Science
Facilities 4). Combustion is the release of chemical energy. Combustion research on the station will lead
to less pollution in the industries and the production of advanced materials which will have very large
payoffs for the economy (2).
Since the computer age began, microchips have become smaller and more efficient every year.
On the International Space Station, The multinational crew will spend one half of its time working on
science. Many experiments will deal with improving the microchip and the silicon that makes it up
(DiChristina 77).
Finding cures for many medical problems is one hope for the space station. One of the most
important missions of the station will be to search for cures to earthly diseases. The International Space
Station will provide information that might lead to cures for AIDS, Cancer, Diabetes, Emphysema, and
Osteoporosis (Lawler 50). Scientists will find this mission an ideal spot to study the human biology
without the restraints of gravity. A cure for Cancer might be found in space. In orbit, Cancer cells grow
in solid clumps because gravity does not flatten them. Therefore the space station will be the best effort
yet to search for treatments because they can be studied three dimensionally (Bizony 120). Some think
that protein crystals are the answer to many cures. They are associated with every disease on Earth. If
they can be understood deadly diseases may be curable (DiChristina 77).
Aging has always been a large concern for many people on Earth. Soon that may not be as large
of a problem. Research from previous shuttle missions and Mir have shown that some of the processes
that occur in a person when they get older are the same processes that also affect the astronauts on a
mission in space. Problems such as weakening of the heart, muscles, and bones, disturbed sleep patterns,
abnormal immune system, and problems balancing affect both groups the same ways. Therefore, some
aspects of aging may be curable if scientists can find a connection between the two (“Our health” 1).
NASA is trying to learn more about the affects of weightlessness on their astronauts during long
missions. They plan to use the International Space Station as one means to do so. On the space station,
scientists will discover ways to predict the effects of weightlessness on travelers to Mars (7). It has
already been 1earned that living in space for any extended period of time is not good on a person’s health.
Scientists plan to explore why and will study the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body
and mind (Bizony 113). Developers working for NASA are creating some of the most technologically
advanced machines ever made which are specially formulated for experimentation on the International
Space Station. It would be very hazardous and not practical for NASA to return an ill or hurt member of
the station back to the United States. Therefore, NASA is improving computer systems that will be able to
diagnose and help treat any injury that may occur while on the station. These machines, along with
medically trained astronauts, will create a very small need for return missions to Earth due to health
considerations (“Our health” 3). To deliver the best medicine possible, the space station will be equipped
with virtual reality and medical monitoring systems like those found in hospitals. Cyber surgery, a type of
virtual reality, will be used in the extreme cases of a medical emergency (4).

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