Technology and (outer) Space – Lab 10

April 9, 2010

The International Space Station (ISS) has introduced a new era of technology and exploration.  Humans are now capable of living in outer space for extended amounts of time on the ISS, a football field-sized laboratory.  This lab offers a unique environment for experiments, research, and the develop of new technologies.  An article from NASA mentions the success of experiments in the past 9 years, including “advances in the fight against food poisoning, new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells and the development of more capable engines and materials” among the hundreds that have taken place.  As for physical dimensions the station has “a mass of almost 400 tons and more than 12,000 cubic feet of living space” and is nearing completion.  For a better idea of the structure, visit an interactive time line from USA Today that assembles the station in the order it was built.  At the end of the animation each piece’s function is explained.

In recognition of its success, the International Space Station Program was awarded the 2009 Collier Trophy.  According to a second NASA article, “the National Aeronautic Association bestows the award annually to recognize the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America”.  However, this award does not only honor American astronauts and scientists, but many other people from different countries as well.  The title “International” Space Station reflects the joint project of five space agencies and 15 countries including NASA, European countries, Japan, and Russia.  The joint project is due in part to the immense cost of building and maintaining the station, but also as a cooperative peace gesture.  In space, there are no countries or boundaries, no physical barriers; nationalities cease to exist and only humanity remains.  The joint effort of America and Russia is an example of this.  45 Years ago marked the height of the Cold War and the Space Race between Communist Russia and the Democratic United States.  In a CNN article and video, a recent joint mission between Russia and America took flight.  The Russian rocket took off on April 4th, 2010 with NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko.  This cooperative effort demonstrates not only the evolution of space technology, but also the evolution of cooperation and peace between former opposing nations.

The International Space Station possesses unique concepts of location, place, and space.  For example, the physical location of the ISS is constantly changing and, therefore, its general location must be referred to as its orbit and given a specific time, its exact location over Earth can be calculated.  This is important information, as scientists need to know when and where the ISS will be when sending up a shuttle or rocket to dock with it.

A second unique concept of geography at the ISS is place.  Place is defined as “the distinctive and distinguishing physical and human characteristics of the locales”.  “Characteristics of the locales” usually refers to culture but in this case cultures are mixed.   The commonality among all those on board the station is their careers and love for science and space.

The final term, space, plays a huge role concerning living in the International Space Station and maximizing its uses.  For instance, in a typical household on Earth gravity prevents the use of at least half of every room from being occupied.  In space, the absence of gravity no longer dictates what is “up” or “down”, redefining the phrase ‘one astronaut’s floor is another astronaut’s ceiling’, literally!  Also, walkways are not needed as one can simply float through a room.  Although it seems much space is available, in reality most of it is used for storage of supplies and equipment.  The isolation of space requires a lot of ‘stuff” to be put in a small area.  Therefore, the amount of space available is closely monitored and was scrutinized over during the early development of the ISS.

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