What is a space station?
A space station, also known as an orbital station or an orbital space station, is a spacecraft capable of supporting a human crew in orbit for an extended period of time that lacks major propulsion or landing systems. Stations must have docking ports to allow other spacecraft to dock to transfer crew and supplies.
How many space stations are there in the world?
By April 2018, there are two space stations orbiting around the Earth: International Space Station (Operating and permanently inhabited), and Tiangong-2 of China (Operating but not permanently inhabited).
How to live in a space station…
A $150-billion contraption floating 270 miles above Earth is one of the most impressive achievements of humankind.
It's called the International Space Station (ISS), and a rotating astronaut crew has occupied it since 2000. The work of those astronauts has yielded some incredible scientific insights.
Astronaut is not a profession where you get to go home at the end of the day though. One ticket from Earth to the ISS costs about $70 million, so normally each crew lives and works on the station for a six-month shift.
Weightlessness causes a lot of weird problems though — the kind of problems we never experience here on Earth thanks to gravity.
Washing and showering is a challenge. Astronauts squirt a few lines of water on their skin and hair and then use no-rinse soap and shampoo to clean themselves.
The station only gets resupplied every few months, so astronauts have to be mindful of their supplies. Luckily, over 90% of the water on board gets recycled and reused. That includes everything from dirty wash water, water from astronauts' breath, and yes, even urine is recycled. It's all sent through this high-tech water filter on board.
Sometimes that even involves venturing out into the dangerous vacuum of space. Trips outside the station are called "spacewalks," and they take a lot of preparation and safety training. One wrong move and an astronaut could just float off into the vacuum of space (like George Clooney in "Gravity"). They also have to watch for leaks in the spacesuits that protect them from the bitterly cold temperatures and radiation in space.
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