Noordung's Space Station Habitat Wheel (1928)

1929 Hermann Noordung depiction of a space station habitat wheel. Hermann Potocnik (1892-1929), also known as Herman Noordung, created the first detailed technical drawings of a space station. Power was generated by collecting sunlight through the concave mirror in the center. This was one of three components of Noordung's space station. The other two were the observatory and the machine room, each connected to the habitat by an umbilical.

Space station from the sci-fi film, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1965)

This the classic space station image from the movie 2001:a Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1968. Praised for its special effects, the movie based its space station concept on Wernher Von Braun's model. Kubrick's station in the movie was 900 feet in diameter, orbited 200 miles above Earth, and was home to an international contingent of scientists, passengers, and bureaucrats.

Orbit and Launch Facility Concept (1963)

This is a concept drawing of an orbit and launch facility. It was to use a nuclear SNAP-II nuclear power supply on the end of the long telescoping boom. Nuclear reactors were considered dangerous, which is why in this concept drawing it was located so far away from the habitat part of the station. Creators envisioned the structure being built in orbit to allow assembly of the station in orbit which could be then larger than anything that could be launched from Earth. The two main modules were to be 33 feet in diameter and 40 feet in length. When combined the modules would create a four deck facility, 2 decks to be used for laboratory space and 2 decks for operations and living quarters. The facility also allowed for servicing and launch of a space vehicle. Though the station was designed to operate in micro- gravity, it would also have an artificial gravity capability.

Three Radial Module Space Station Concept (1964)

This three-radial-module space station concept was intended to utilize Apollo hardware to deploy the station and to transfer crews to and from orbit.

Proposed USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory (1966)

A 1960 concept image of the United States Air Force's proposed Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) that was intended to test the military usefulness of having humans in orbit. The station's baseline configuration was that of a two-person Gemini B spacecraft that could be attached to a laboratory vehicle. The structure was planned to launch onboard a Titan IIIC rocket. The station would be used for a month and then the astronauts could return to the Gemini capsule for transport back to Earth. The first launch of the MOL was scheduled for December 15, 1969, but was then pushed back to the fall of 1971. The program was cancelled by Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird in 1969 after the estimated cost of the program had risen in excess of $3 billion, and had already spent $1.3 billion. Some of the military astronauts selected for the program then transferred to NASA and became some of the first people to fly the Space Shuttle, including Richard Truly, who later became the NASA Administrator.

Spider Space Station Concept (1976)

A 1977 concept drawing for a space station. Known as the "spider" concept, this station was designed to use Space Shuttle hardware. A solar array was to be unwound from the exhausted main fuel tank. The structure could then be formed and assembled in one operation. The main engine tank would then be used as a space operations control center, a Shuttle astronaut crew habitat, and a space operations focal point for missions to the Moon and Mars.

Roof Space Station Concept (1980)

This is the Johnson Space Center's 1984 "roof" concept for a space station. The "roof" was covered with solar array cells, that were to generate about 120 kilowatts of electricity. Within the V-shaped beams there would be five modules for living, laboratory space, and external areas for instruments and other facilities.

International Space Station (ISS):

The International Space Station, or ISS, represents a global partnership of 16 nations. This project is an engineering, scientific and technological marvel ushering in a new era of human space exploration. The million-pound space station will include six laboratories and provide more space for research than any spacecraft ever built. Internal volume of the space station will be roughly equal to the passenger cabin volume of a 747 jumbo jet.

The mission of the International Space Station is to enable long-term exploration of space and provide benefits to people on Earth.

Station Facts:

The pressurized living and working space aboard the completed ISS will be about the size of three average American homes. Its giant solar arrays will generate the electricity needed to power about 50 average American homes. An initial crew of three began living aboard the ISS in late 2000. Inside the ISS its weightless environment will be maintained at shirt sleeve temperatures with atmospheric pressures similar to what we have here on Earth.

Six main laboratories will house research facilities:

The central girder, called the truss, will connect the modules and four giant solar arrays making the ISS larger than a football field. The Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System, a 55-foot robot arm and a grappling mechanism called the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), will move along the truss on a mobile base transporter to perform assembly and maintenance work.

External sites for mounting experiments intended for looking down at Earth and out into space or for direct exposure to space are provided at four locations on the truss structure, along with 10 on the Japanese Kibo Module s back porch and 4 on the ESA Columbus Module exposed facility. These external experiment sites vary as to the number of payloads that can be accommodated. A three-person Russian Soyuz capsule provides emergency crew return.

More than 40 space flights over five years and at least three space vehicles the space shuttle, the Russian Soyuz rocket and the Russian Proton rocket will deliver the various space station components to Earth orbit. Assembly of the more than 100 components will require a combination of human space walks and robot technologies.

Fifteen flights, which includes 11 space shuttle missions, have already occurred in the International Space Station era. The first flight was a Russian Proton rocket that lifted off in November 1998 and placed the Zarya module in orbit. In early December of that same year, the STS-88 mission saw Space Shuttle Endeavour attach the Unity module to Zarya initiating the first ISS assembly sequence. The third ISS mission was STS-96 in June 1999 with Discovery supplying the two modules with tools and cranes.

The fourth flight to the space station was STS-101, which launched May 19, 2000. The seven-member crew of STS-101 performed maintenance tasks and delivered supplies in preparation for the arrival of the Zvezda Service Module and the station's first permanent crew. Zvezda, the fifth flight, docked with the station on July 25 at 7:45 p.m. CDT, or July 26 at 00:45 GMT, and became the third major component of the station. Then, STS-106 visited the station in September to deliver supplies and outfit Zvezda in preparation for the station's first permanent crew, which arrived at the station on Nov. 2. Prior to the Expedition One crew's arrival, STS-92 delivered the Z1 Truss, Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 and four Control Moment Gyros in October.

STS-97 was the last shuttle mission of the 20th century. Space Shuttle Endeavour and its five-member crew installed the first set of U.S. solar arrays onto the station and became the first shuttle crew to visit Expedition One. The solar arrays set the stage for the arrival of the U.S. Destiny Laboratory Module, which arrived at the station in February 2001 on STS-98. The five STS-98 astronauts also relocated Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 from the end of Unity to the end of Destiny to set the stage for future shuttle missions.

In March 2001, the first crew rotation flight arrived. STS-102 delivered the Expedition Two crew to the station and returned Expedition One to Earth. Also, STS-102 carried the first Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, Leonardo, to the station. Logistics modules are reusable cargo carriers built by the Italian Space Agency. Expedition One spent 4.5 months on the station.

STS-100 delivered the station's robot arm, which is also known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, and the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module in April. The delivery of the arm set the stage for the arrival of the station's joint airlock, which was installed during STS-104's visit to the station in July 2001.

The flight STS-108. delivered Expedition Four on Nov. 29, 2001.


Blanketing clouds form the backdrop for this 70mm scene of the connected Zarya and Unity modules after having been released from Endeavour's cargo bay a bit earlier.

The last time astronauts saw the ISS, it was not sporting the recently-arriving Progress, which appears at the top in this perspective. Also, next to the Progress, appears the Zvezda service module, which had been delivered by a Proton rocket since the most recent human visit to ISS.

Not long after separation of the Space Shuttle Discovery from the International Space Station (ISS), a crew member onboard the shuttle was able to use a 70mm handheld camera to grab this "edge-on" image of the station, featuring its newest additions. Backdropped against the blackness of space, the Z1 Truss structure and its antenna, as well as the new pressurized mating adapter (PMA-3), are visible in the foreground.

This nadir view is one of a series of digital still camera photographs showing the International Space Station (ISS) during a fly-around by the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The 240-foot-long, 38-foot-wide solar array is the newest part and one of the most prominent components of the station.

Backdropped against the blue and white Earth and sporting a readily visible new addition in the form of the Canadarm2 or space station robotic arm, the International Space Station (ISS) was photographed following separation from the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

The International Space Station (ISS), just days after receiving the installment of the Quest airlock, was photographed by one of the STS-104 astronauts during a fly-around of the orbital outpost. The survey occurred shortly after Atlantis' undocking. The Canadarm2 or Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) appears to be pointed toward the new airlock on the station's starboard side. The STS-104 and Expedition Two crew's joint efforts in the past several days, in which the airlock was installed and other work was accomplished, marked the completion of the second phase of the station. Within the last year (beginning in July of 2000), 77 tons of hardware have been added to the complex, including the Zvezda module, the Z1 Truss Assembly, Pressurized Mating Adapter 3, the P6 Truss and its 240-foot long solar arrays, the U.S. laboratory Destiny, the Canadarm2 and finally the Quest airlock.

Astronaut James H. Newman, mission specialist, wraps up extravehicular activity (EVA) tasks as he and fellow mission specialist Jerry L. Ross (out of frame) near the completion of their third and final scheduled space walk on STS-88. Newman holds onto handrails on the U.S.-built Unity connecting module (foreground). Zarya can be seen beyond Newman, backdropped over ocean waters some 173 nautical miles below.

Astronaut Tamara E. Jernigan, backdropped against terrain some 173 nautical miles beneath Discovery, totes part of a Russian-built crane, called Strela (a Russian word meaning "arrow"). Jernigan's feet are anchored on a mobile foot restraint connected to the shuttle's remote manipulator system (RMS).

To assemble the million pound International Space Station, Earth orbit will become a day-to-day construction site for the next five years. Humankind has begun a move off of the planet Earth on an unprecedented scale. Astronauts will perform more spacewalks in the next five years than have been conducted since space flight began, more than 2.5 times as many. They will be assisted by an "inch-worming" robotic arm, a two-fingered "Canada hand," and maybe even a free-flying robotic "eye" that can circle and inspect the station. Before the station's assembly is completed, more than 100 different components launched on about 46 space flights - using three different types of rockets - will have been bolted, latched, wired, plumbed and fastened together.

Because of the unprecedented complexity, NASA expects to encounter surprises during the orbital construction work. But to prepare for the challenges, engineers and astronauts have been methodically practicing procedures, preparing tools, testing equipment and building experience during more than a decade of spacewalking flight tests. A total of 37 space shuttle missions are scheduled to assemble, outfit and begin research use of the station from 1998 to 2005. Two of those have been completed. About 160 spacewalks - four already completed - totaling 960 clock hours, or 1,920 man-hours, will be performed during that time to assemble and maintain the station. Since astronaut Ed White stepped out of an orbiting U.S. Gemini spacecraft in 1965 to become the first American to walk in space, NASA has conducted only about 377 hours of spacewalks.

ISS Today:

New Year

Moon's Shadow

Robot Arm

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