International Space Station: A closer look up above
By CGTN’ John Zarrella
It’s hard to believe permanent human presence on the International Space Station (ISS) began 17 years ago. Over the course of all those years, the ISS has outperformed just about everyone’s expectations.
“I think all of us are a little bit pleasantly surprised by how smoothly things are going. Not to say there aren’t some issues aboard station or haven’t been but by and large, it’s gone a lot better than most of us expected,” Leroy Chiao said, a former US NASA astronaut of Chinese parents and Expedition 10 Commander.
That is saying a lot. ISS is huge and complex. It’s the size of a US football field with systems to generate oxygen and water. The electrical power system is connected by eight miles of wire.
Leroy Chiao, Expedition 10 Commander. /CGTN Photo

Leroy Chiao, Expedition 10 Commander. /CGTN Photo

Just like a home, the station was designed to be maintained. But, unlike your home, when something major does break, you can’t call a repairman.
So, the astronauts are the repair men and women.
US astronauts have conducted some 145 spacewalks from Station airlocks. Many during construction but also to do things like change out pumps and remove and replace batteries. The Russians have conducted more than 50.
“It’s really quite a mature operation now. We’ve had our share of close calls and things that didn’t go right, but by and large, we know how to do it, and of course, it does come with more risk, but it’s a necessary part of maintaining ISS,” Chiao added.
VCG Photo‍

VCG Photo‍

About every two months, if there aren’t launch delays or mishaps, the station gets a visit from an unmanned resupply ship thousands of pounds of food, clothing, science experiments, and replacement equipment.
Russian ships dock right to the station. The US Space X and Orbital ATK vehicles are snared. Astronauts get a kick out of that.
“We’ve also had a lot of robotic arm operations. We’ve had cargo vehicles arriving that we actually reach out and grab it with the robotic arm. That’s been a lot of fun,” Astronaut Shane Kimbrough said.
China is not a partner country to the ISS like Russia and the US and no Chinese nationals have ever been aboard. The plan now is to keep the space station operational until 2024 although there is uncertainty over its future beyond that point.