International Space Station

ISS viewed from Endeavour following undocking on 28 November 2008

The historic arrival of the first permanent crew of the Space Station - the Expedition 1 crew - took place on 2 November 2000. This date marked the dawn of a new space age, as it signified the beginning of an extended period of at least 15 years where there will be a continuously inhabited platform in orbit around the Earth - the International Space Station (ISS).

Assembly of the Space Station started in November 1998 with the launch of the first Station element, the Zarya module into orbit. The International Space Station will be fully completed in 2010, and offers an extensive range of facilities in a unique environment that cannot be found on Earth, and enables mankind to continue to learn how to live and work in space for long periods.

The Station facilities are contributed jointly by the International Partners (i.e., United States, Russia, Member States of the European Space Agency, Japan and Canada) and enable utilisation activities in the fields of physical and life sciences, space science, Earth observation and technology innovation. In addition, education and outreach are also activities which benefit significantly from use of the capabilities of the Station.

Utilisation of the Station is in full swing and many experiments are being carried out on the Zvezda service module, the US laboratory module Destiny, the European Columbus laboratory and the Japanese laboratory Kibo.

The European Columbus laboratory is outfitted with payload facility racks that offer European scientists across a wide range of disciplines and full access to a weightless environment that cannot possibly be duplicated on Earth.

Outside, Columbus has four mounting points for external payloads. Exposed to the vacuum of space, and with an unhindered view of the Earth and outer space, science packages can investigate anything from the ability of bacteria to survive on an artificial meteorite to volcanic activity 400 km below on the Earth.

The benefits the Station offers include:

  • The capability to perform an experiment or observation programme over an extended period of time in weightless conditions;
  • Provision of access to a significant level of resources;
  • The permanent presence of crew (to interact with users experiments if required, or in the event of unforeseen problems);
  • An extensive range of facilities to enable activities in a large number of utilisation fields.

Last update: 9 November 2010

Copyright 2000 - 2014 © European Space Agency. All rights reserved.