International Space Station

In the early 1980's, the International Space Station (ISS) was only an idea on paper. Today, the ISS is a result of sixteen international partners working together to create a world-class, state-of-the-art orbiting research facility.

The ISS provides scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs an opportunity to perform complex experiments over long periods of time in a space environment. But, it is much more; it is an international "city in space" - a place where we will learn how to live and work "off planet."

Some facts about the International Space Station

  • The Space Station is the largest manned object ever sent into space - larger than the new Airbus 380 recently put into service to carry over 500 passengers. It consists of 70 separate major components and hundreds of minor ones. All the parts will be put together in space for the first time.
  • This is a BIG construction job - 45 launches in total to assemble the parts and over 1700 hours of space walks for the astronauts and cosmonauts. Future plans for missions to the ISS can be found at
  • We can see it - and the people on board can see us! When completed, the ISS will be visible to more than 90 percent of the world's population and circles the Earth every 90 minutes.
  • Canadian astronaut, Dr. Robert Thirsk, spent 187 days on board the ISS in 2009.
  • In November 2012, Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield joined the crew on the International Space Station (Expedition 34/35); his journey up to and returning from the ISS was on a Russian Soyuz vehicle.
  • During the second half of his mission Hadfield became the first Canadian Commander of the ISS–a milestone for Canadian space exploration. In addition to overseeing operations as Commander, he carried out scientific experiments, operated Canadarm2 and performed various robotics tasks.
  • Having trouble sleeping? Humans need less sleep in space because the body does little work in a microgravity environment. It takes little effort to raise an arm, hold your head up, or move a bulky object.
  • It's a team effort - many countries are involved - the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The construction involves more than 100,000 people, and hundreds of companies. Astronauts also work in teams on the various experiments aboard the ISS.
  • Keep working in Physical Education classes - Every astronaut must do at least two hours of strenuous exercise, every day. This is to counteract the tendency of the human body to lose muscle and bone mass rapidly in space.
  • It's not cheap! It is the most expensive object every built. The Chunnel between England and France cost about $22 billion. The United States' contribution ALONE is estimated at nearly $200 billion!

There are excellent photographs and statistical information at - and then go to the "facts" - a downloadable pdf.

International Space Station Statistics

Statistic   Updated
Perigee 347.9 km June 17, 2005
Apogee 354.1 km June 17, 2005
Orbital period 91.55 minutes June 17, 2005
Orbits per day 15.73 June 17, 2005
Average speed 7.69 km/s (27,685.7 km/h)  
Pressure ~757 mmHg (100 kPa)  
Oxygen ~162.4 mmHg (22 kPa)  
Carbon Dioxide ~4.8 mmHg (640 Pa)  
Temperature ~26.9°C  
Major Elements  
Zarya: launched Nov. 20, 1998
Unity: attached Dec. 8, 1998
Zvezda: attached July 25, 2000
Z1 Truss: attached Oct. 14, 2000
P6 Integrated attached Dec. 3, 2000
Destiny: attached Feb. 10, 2001
Canadarm2: attached April 22, 2001
Joint Airlock: attached July 15, 2001
Pirs: attached Sept. 16, 2001
S0 Truss: attached April 11, 2002
S1 Truss: attached Oct. 10, 2002
P1 Truss: attached Nov. 26, 2002
P3/P4 Truss: attached Sept. 12, 2006
P5 Truss: attached Dec. 12, 2006
Harmony: attached Oct. 26, 2007
Columbus: attached Feb. 11, 2008
Kibo (ELM-PS): attached March 14, 2008
Kibo (JPM): attached June 3, 2008
S6 Truss: attached March 19, 2009
Poisk: attached Nov. 12, 2009
Iss Flights  
American 31 space shuttle flights
Russian 2 Proton flights
  20 Soyuz Crew flights
  2 Soyuz assembly flights
  35 Progress resupply flights
European 1 automated transfer vehicle flight
Japanese 1 H-11 Transfer vehicle flight
Shuttle-based 28
ISS-based 108
Total time 850+ hours
Crew Support  
Weight 2 722 kg of supplies per expedition
In Flight 6 crew members
Ground 100 000 + personnel
Contractors 500
Countries 16
Meal Consumption approximately 20 000


Some good links to provide more information about the ISS for STUDENTS (and many of them have teacher information as well) include:

CANADIAN SPACE AGENCY (this is an excellent link which has the tracking map for the ISS and also an excellent diagram showing the stages of development)


  • NASA Quest (FREE Web-based, interactive explorations designed to engage students in authentic scientific and engineering processes. The solutions relate to issues encountered daily by NASA personnel.)
  • SpaceKids - Space Science for Kids.
  • NASA Space Place - Check out our games, animations, projects, and fun facts about Earth, space and technology.
  • Astro-Venture - Search for and design a habitable planet; great opportunities to integrate geography, geology and biology into your program

Tracking the International Space Station

Other International Space Station resources

  • PBS Space Station See & Do - Interesting activities and facts about living in space and to answer questions about space suits, sanitation, recreation and sleeping, eating and microgravity.
  • Wikipedia - Excellent links to a number of other sites as well as basic information about the International Space Station.

Tomatosphere is supported by Let's Talk Science, the Canadian Space Agency, HeinzSeed, Stokes Seeds, the University of Guelph, and First the Seed Foundation.