Building A Dream

In 1998, ISS prime contractor the Boeing Company, issued a Press Information Book that overviewed the plans for the station at the start of construction.2 A significant amount of this information had changed as the station itself changed, but the underlining objectives of the programme remained:

• Finding solutions to crucial problems in medicine, ecology and other areas of science.

• Laying the foundation for developing space-based commerce and enterprise.

• Creating greater worldwide demand for space-related education at all levels by cultivating the excitement, wonder and discovery that the ISS symbolises.

• Fostering world peace though high-profile, long-term international cooperation in space.

To achieve all of this, the ISS would require over 100 elements to be constructed during forty-five missions, using American, Russian, European and Japanese launch systems and spacecraft and elements from all sixteen partners in the programme. According to the press information, nearly 500 tons of structure, equipment and supplies needed to be placed into orbit. More space walks would be required in five years of assembly than the combined total of spacewalks since Leonov's pioneering effort in the early 1960s.

The research facilities would include:

• US Laboratory - where US studies into human research, fluids and combustion, biotechnology, and materials science would be conducted.

• ESA Columbus Orbital Facility - where European astronauts would perform research into microgravity studies, fluid physics, biology and physiology.

• Japanese Experiment Module with Centrifuge Facility - where Japanese astro nauts would conduct experiments in the pressurised module and unpressurised exposed facility, featuring a dedicated RMS and experiment logistics module.

• Two Russian research modules based on earlier Mir-type modules - where Russian cosmonauts would perform research into Earth, space, and human life sciences, fundamental biology and microgravity.

The ISS programme was to be divided into several phases:

• Phase 1 (1994-1998) included Shuttle dockings with Mir and over twenty-seven months of continuous residence by seven US astronauts on the Russian station. Several Russian cosmonauts would also fly on the Shuttle. This was intended to provide invaluable knowledge and experience in both international cooperation and coordination in space operations. Many lessons learned from this phase had direct application to subsequent phases.

• Phase 2 (1998-2000) The initial assembly and habitation of ISS up to and including the arrival of the first three-person resident crew and independent operations without a docked Shuttle.

• Phase 3 (2000-circa 2004) The assembly completion phase, with the delivery and attachment of all the additional laboratories, solar arrays and other facilities, and supplies and logistics to support a seven-person crew on permanent basis.

• Phase 4 (circa 2004-2024) Progressing from construction to utilisation, the ISS would be completed and fully operational, with rotating resident crews and numerous visiting crews conducting a growing programme of science, research and observations. Estimates of the operational life of the early space station varied from a few months to several years. The Russian Mir station, planned for a five-year operational phase, actually operated for fifteen years and it was hoped that ISS would exceed that record.

When fully assembled, ISS would have a mass exceeding 475 tonnes and would house a permanent crew of six or seven in 1,300 cubic metres of pressurised modules (about the equivalent of two Boeing 747 jumbo jets). There were to be six laboratories, two habitation modules and two logistics modules and the whole structure would measure 108.5 m across and 88.3 m long. The research expected to be completed aboard this huge space complex would focus on microgravity, life sciences, space sciences, Earth sciences, engineering research and technologies and the development of commercial products, as well as educational outreach objectives.

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