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What exactly is a space station? Explained

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New Delhi, June 14: The very mention of space station brings to memory gigantic and complex structures free-floating in space in which hundreds of astronauts work as it hops from one galaxy to the other. But that is only in the sci-fi movies. It may be possible in the future to make space stations which would just be like cities of earth, totally self sufficient and that are able to travel beyond solar system, for now lets stick to reality.

Representational Image

As of now, a space station is essentially a an artificial satellite which revolves around the earth which provides a small habitable space for a few humans to live for a few days and carryout scientific experiments. In simple words, space stations are habitable scientific laboratory in space. Space stations are a place to do cutting edge scientific research in an environment that cannot be simulated on Earth.

Small unmanned spacecraft can provide platforms for zero gravity and exposure to space, but space stations offer a long-term environment where studies can be performed potentially for decades, combined with ready access by human researchers over periods that exceed the capabilities of manned spacecraft.

[India planning to have own space station says, ISRO chief K Sivan]

Russia was the first to place a space station. The first space station was Salyut 1, which was launched by the Soviet Union on April 19, 1971. At present, one fully functioning space station is orbiting the earth and that is the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.

The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. The ISS is the largest human-made body in low Earth orbit. Its first component was launched into orbit in 1998, with the first long-term residents arriving in November 2000.

[NASA to open International Space Station to tourists from 2020]

Why India needs a space station?

Now, ISRO has announced that it would be launching a space station by 2030. It left many surprised, but with first manned mission Gaganyaan set to take-off by 2022, a space station seems like only a logical extension to the program. When India succeeds with Gaganyaan, what next? The answer would be that India would like to build on the knowledge acquired by Gaganyaan mission and would want to perform more experiments in space. Once the technology to send humans to space is mastered, the next step would be to experiment with technologies where humans would be able to live in space. In this sense, ISRO is well on its track to take its space endeavours to a new level and there seems to be a clear direction in which it wants to go.

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