Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Aida. Aida Wonders, “What is the International Space Station?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Aida!

Have you ever dreamed of being an astronaut? How about stepping foot on another planet? Would you like to live on a spacecraft orbiting high above Earth? What would it be like to live on the International Space Station?

It’s probably similar to life on the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek, right? Or would it be more like staying at a posh resort? Maybe it’s sort of like living in your car?

The future predicted by Star Trek hasn’t quite come along  yet. The International Space Station (ISS) is a bit different from either a posh resort or your average automobile. So what’s life aboard the ISS like?

The ISS is a satellite that orbits Earth once every 90 minutes at an altitude of over 220 miles. The space agencies of the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and several European countries work together to keep it running.

The ISS can house up to 10 astronauts. Their expeditions can last up to six months at a time. During that time, astronauts aboard the ISS follow a detailed daily schedule. It tells them when to get up, eat, exercise, work, relax, and go to sleep.

The ISS has over 15,000 cubic feet of living space. It includes more room than your average three-bedroom home. Its laboratory is a key feature that makes all sorts of interesting research possible. In the lab, gravity can be virtually eliminated for extended periods of time.

The microgravity environment of the ISS makes everyday activities, such as washing your hair and going to the bathroom, a bit more challenging than on Earth. Astronauts wash their hair with a rinseless shampoo. To use the bathroom, they must strap themselves to the toilet with leg restraints and thigh bars. The toilet itself acts like a vacuum cleaner that sucks air and waste into special tanks.

Astronauts must spend about two hours each day exercising. They use special equipment built just for the ISS. Without regular exercise, astronauts would lose a lot of muscle and bone. This is due to the low gravity of space.

The food astronauts eat is designed for space missions. It comes in disposable packages that can be stored easily. Some foods, such as brownies, can be eaten in space just like they are on Earth. Others pose special challenges. Do you like salt on your food? When you’re in space, you can’t shake salt onto food, because it would simply float away! As a result, astronauts have to use a special liquid version of salt.

When they’re not busy with scientific experiments or maintenance on the ISS, astronauts can relax and have fun in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s fun to simply  stare out the window at Earth spinning below. Other activities include listening to music, reading books, playing cards, watching movies, and talking with their families.

As you can see, living on the ISS presents certain challenges that don’t exist on Earth. What do you think? Would you enjoy spending six months or more on the ISS?

Standards: NGSS.ESS1.B, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a closer look at the power of plastic!