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EDITIONS
Space station Friday, 20 October, 2000, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
The world's future in space
spacs station graphic
Estimated completion date: 2006
The International Space Station (ISS) will "change the course of human history", says Daniel Goldin, the head of the US space agency Nasa.

It is a momentous statement, the accuracy of which will, no doubt, be judged by future generations. The ISS is certainly an ambitious idea. It is probably the largest international scientific and technological project ever undertaken.

The goal is to establish and maintain a permanent presence in space and to provide a testbed for new technologies, medical research and the development of advanced industrial materials.

It should be complete and fully operational come 2006.

Collaboration

The United States took the lead on the ISS after the then President Ronald Reagan announced in 1984 that he wanted to spend about $8bn putting a space station in orbit within a decade.

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, it was decided to make the space station an international collaboration between the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency (Esa).

The Brazilian Space Agency has a small input as well.

The cost of it all is difficult to pin down. Commentators like to quote figures somewhere between $40bn and $60bn, but official estimates are considerably less.

Permanent crew

The station will be made up of various modules that will be transported into space on more than 40 flights over a period of several years.

When assembled, the ISS will have a pressurised cabin space equal to two 747 aeroplanes. It will measure 108.5 metres (356 feet) across and 88.3 metres (290 feet) long and will weigh up to 450,000 kilograms (a million pounds).

The space station will orbit 350 kilometres (220 miles) above the Earth at an inclination of 51.6 degrees to the equator, providing observation coverage of 85% of the globe.

It is expected that up to seven people of all nationalities will live on the station at any one time.

Launch

It was hoped to launch the first part of the ISS, the Russian-built core control module, also known as the Functional Cargo Block or Zarya, in December 1997. But delays in its development pushed the launch date back to November 1998.

It finally went up on a Proton rocket and was followed two weeks later by the Unity node carried on the space shuttle.

The Zvezda living quarters should have been put up soon after, but once again delays postponed its launch until July 2000.

The first crew of the ISS - Expedition One - should now take up their post in November 2000. The American astronaut Bill Shepherd, the ISS's first commander, has had to wait 18 months longer than expected to start his job.

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