Space stations past and present

Explaining Science (formerly The Science Geek)

The International Space Station (ISS) is now 20 years old. In this post I’ll talk about the history of the ISS and other space stations, and I’ll also touch on some of the politics involved.

Image from NASA

Early space stations

Although America was the first country to put a man on the Moon, the Soviet Union led the way in long duration spaceflights and was the first country to launch a space station, where humans could  live and work for longer periods of time. Before the advent of space stations, astronauts were confined to cramped space capsules.

The first ever space station Salyut 1 was launched into space in April 1971. It weighed nearly 20 tonnes and had a pressurised volume of 100 cubic metres, in which cosmonauts could live and work. This was vastly more than previous spacecraft. For comparison, the command module in which the Apollo astronauts…

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