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The International Space Station, or ISS, represents a global partnership of 16 nations. This project is an engineering, scientific and technological marvel ushering in a new era of human space exploration. The million-pound space station will include six laboratories and provide more space for research than any spacecraft ever built. Internal volume of the space station will be roughly equal to the passenger cabin volume of a 747 jumbo jet.

More than 40 space flights over five years and at least three space vehicles — the space shuttle, the Russian Soyuz rocket and the Russian Proton rocket — will deliver the various space station components to Earth orbit. Assembly of the more than 100 components will require a combination of human space walks and robot technologies.

Six flights have already occurred in the International Space Station era. The first flight was a Russian Proton rocket that lifted off in November 1998 and placed the Zarya module in orbit. In early December of that same year, the STS-88 mission saw Space Shuttle Endeavour attach the Unity module to Zarya initiating the first ISS assembly sequence. The third ISS mission was STS-96 in June 1999 with Discovery supplying the two modules with tools and cranes.

The fourth flight to the space station was STS-101, which launched May 19, 2000. The seven-member crew of STS-101 performed maintenance tasks and delivered supplies in preparation for the arrival of the Zvezda Service Module and the station's first permanent crew. Zvezda, the fifth flight, docked with the station on July 25 at 7:45 p.m. CDT, or July 26 at 00:45 GMT, and became the third major component of the station. Then, STS-106 visited the station in September to deliver supplies and outfit Zvezda in preparation for the station's first permanent crew, which arrived at the station on Nov 2. Prior to the Expedition 1 crew's arrival, STS-92 delivered the Z1 Truss, Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 and four Control Moment Gyros in October.

The United States and Russia have partnered together since 1994 performing nine Shuttle-Mir dockings. That experience provided valuable insight and team work necessary for building and maintaining the International Space Station. Consequently, the first crew to inhabit the space station will be two Russians and one American. They will fly aboard a Soyuz capsule, dock with the station and spend five months in space.

When the space station is completed an international crew of up to seven will live and work in space between three and six months. Crew return vehicles will always be attached to the space station to ensure the safe return of all crew members in the event of an emergency.   Credit: NASA JSC


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