What is the International Space Station?


What is the ISS?

What is the International Space Station, and what does it do? Many people aren’t aware that the spacecraft is even up there or that you can see it with the naked eye.

I often see a local weatherman post about ISS sightings, and people comment like it’s a rare occurrence. It got me thinking about how little attention the ISS gets.

The International Space Station has been orbiting the earth since 1998. It travels at 17,500 mph! It makes the journey around the planet every 90 minutes. I’ve seen the station fly overhead numerous times, which is never disappointing.

ISS is a space laboratory the size of a football field (If you include the solar arrays). It was built in sections with the collaboration of many countries contributing their modules to make one large station. It is capable of housing six permanent crew members. And has been constantly inhabited for over 20 years. It is used to perform microgravity experiments and to see how we will fair long term in space, among many other uses.

The cool thing about the ISS is that you can see it with the naked eye when it passes over you at night. But the station is due to be retired by 2030 when it will be sent back to earth in a fireball over the southern pacific ocean. Our friends in Australia will get one hell of a light show when this happens. So you should check it out before it is gone for good.

How to view the International Space Station

Many apps allow you to see when it’s about to pass overhead. The best one I have found is ISS on Live: Earth & ISS Views for android.

Not only does this app show you where the Space Station is currently. It also offers live streams of Nasa and Space X when something happens. It also uses your phone’s compass to point you in the right direction in the sky and show you the trajectory that it will pass overhead. You can even watch the view from 2 different onboard cameras live.

Below is a screenshot I took from my phone. I encourage anyone interested in astronomy or, if you’re just curious, to check out this app or one like it. Most apps will notify you within 5 minutes of when a sighting is about to occur.

ISS on Live: Earth & ISS views
ISS on Live: Earth & ISS views

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