Why is it in the news?
- Twenty-five years ago, on November 20, 1998, humanity embarked on an extraordinary journey into the cosmos.
- It marked the historic launch of the Zarya module, known as “sunrise,” aboard a Russian Proton rocket from the desolate steppes of Kazakhstan.
- This event was not just a routine space mission; it laid the foundation for an awe-inspiring marvel that has since been orbiting our planet—the International Space Station (ISS).
- The ISS is a massive spacecraft in orbit around Earth, serving a dual role. Firstly, it functions as a living space where crews of astronauts and cosmonauts from different countries live and work. Secondly, it is a unique science laboratory that provides researchers from around the world with the opportunity to conduct experiments in microgravity.
- The ISS is a symbol of international cooperation in space exploration. It is a partnership involving space agencies from multiple countries, including European countries represented by the European Space Agency (ESA), the United States (NASA), Japan (JAXA), Canada (CSA), and Russia (Roscosmos).
- The space station orbits Earth at an average altitude of approximately 250 miles (400 kilometres) and completes one orbit every 90 minutes. It has been continuously occupied by astronauts since November 2000.
- The ISS is an enormous structure, weighing nearly 400 tonnes, and it covers an area as large as a football pitch. What makes the ISS unique is that it was constructed in space, piece by piece, and gradually assembled in orbit. This assembly process required more than 40 missions over the years.
- The ISS serves as a crucial platform for conducting research that would be impossible to carry out anywhere else. Scientists aboard the ISS conduct experiments in various fields, including fluids, combustion, life support systems, and the radiation environment. This research is vital for understanding the challenges of long-duration spaceflight and is essential for future human space exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.
India’s Space Station Plans
- India has ambitious plans for its own space station, which is envisioned to weigh around 20 tonnes. The space station would serve as a facility where astronauts can live and work for extended periods, with missions allowing stays of 15-20 days.
- India’s space station is planned to be positioned in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) approximately 400 kilometres above Earth’s surface. The timeline set by India’s leadership aims to establish the ‘Bharatiya Antariksha Station’ (Indian Space Station) by the year 2035.
- The decision to pursue the development of India’s space station was driven by a directive from India’s Prime Minister, highlighting the nation’s commitment to advancing its capabilities in space exploration and research.