Tricolor in Space

Now space has become more familiar to all of us. After Chandrayaan-2 Mission, for every Indian, a keen interest in science and space has been inculcated. We always come across the cosmology terms like satellite, space shuttle, astronaut, black hole etc. You must have heard about the space stations also. Space station is a moving platform in space so that scientists and astronauts can work in space for a long time. Do you know how space station work and at present how many space stations are there in the Earth’s orbit? You would also want to know the future planning of India in space station research. Let us try to find out these aspects through this article.

What a Space Station is?

Space station orbits around the Earth. Hence it is also called orbital station. In fact, space station is a large spacecraft or man-made station in space. It is a laboratory where space scientists and astronauts visit and receive several space crafts from the Earth. In this space laboratory, many countries work together to build it and work together to use it. Space station is a laboratory flying in space performing new technology, astronomical, environment and geological research. Such stations of specific objectives are created by scientists in space where space can be studied in depth.

A space station is made up of several pieces which are put together in space by astronauts. The space station orbits approximately 250 miles above the Earth. NASA uses this space station to learn and explore the space. Through the space station, astronauts attempt to find out the mysteries of the cosmos which is largely unknown. The space station flies above the Earth at an average altitude of approximately 400 km. It rotates the world every 90 minutes at a speed of about 28,000 km/h. If viewed from the Earth, space station looks like planet Venus in brightness and appears like a bright moving light across the night sky. With the use of telescope, it can easily be seen. You might be thinking about the number of space stations in the world. This number is not big. Till 2018, there are only two space stations orbiting around the Earth. First is the International Space Station (ISS) and Tiangong-2 of China. ISS is operating and permanently inhabited but the later one is operating but not permanently inhabited. In the past, space stations were existed named Almas and Salyut series, Skylab, Mir and Tiangong-1. In general, space station has been built in the near Earth space where space scientists can work for a long time.

International Space Station (ISS)

The International Space Station is the largest spacecraft ever built and is placed in Earth’s orbit. Russia launched the first segment of ISS on 20 November, 1998. After two years, this space station was ready for scientists. Since the year 2000, astronauts are working in this station on a regular basis. ISS has several solar panels and its weight is approximately 3,91,000 kg. In ISS, six astronauts can live up to six months.

ISS is the world’s largest international cooperative programme in science and technology and its partners are European countries, the United States (NASA), Japan (JAXA), Canada (CSA) and Russia (Roscosmos). Till now, 230 people from 18 countries have visited the ISS. It is interesting to note that Indian astronauts Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams have also done research in this. In this world’s largest space station, there are only two bathrooms. You will be surprised to know that urine of astronauts and laboratory animals is filtered and then goes back to the drilling water supply of space station. In this way, the astronauts do not suffer from water shortage. In ISS, oxygen is generated through electrolysis. Astronauts living in space station often leave this station and wander in space. This is called a space walk. The very first space walk was done by Russian astronaut Alexei Leonov on 18 March, 1965.

India plans to have a Space Station by 2030

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to set up its own space station. This announcement comes in the era of a number of achievements such as Mangalyaan and Chandrayaan-2. ISRO has already proved its capabilities in space research by making indigenous mission Chandrayaan- 2. Forthcoming Gaganyaan mission is again the indigenous human spaceflight programme. ISRO has enough confidence and technology back up to constructing a space station after being able to safely orbit a crew in Low Earth Orbit. ISRO Chief K. Shivan stated a few months back that after almost 5-7 years of realization of Gaganyaan mission, ISRO will establish a space station. Any further details about the size of the space station or the budget allocations for India’s Space Station are not announced yet. But ISRO’s promise is firm.

Since the future of the current International Space Station (ISS) is uncertain beyond 2024 due to concrete funding commitments. At the same time, however, the Chinese single module Tiangong-1 space station which was launched in 2011 re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere last year. China is also preparing to launch a three-module space station from the year 2020. Gaganyaan mission of ISRO will give impetus to India to establish a Space Station in a systematic manner. Gaganyaan will grow ability to train crew and the capacity to sustain life and safety of the crew on orbit and return to land. The major technical leap required in establishing a space station beyond simply having these capabilities is in the ability to also carry larger payloads into space. This will also allow scaling up of space research infrastructure on orbit which is a must to provide more room for astronauts to live and perform experiments for the longer time periods.

In the near future, India’s Space Station would be established in the space to explore the unknown space mysteries and we the Indian will again filled with pride as tricolor of Indian flag shall fly in the space. Jai Hind!

Writer: Dr. Manish Mohan Gore

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