The International Space Station
The International Space Station (ISS) is the largest modular space station in low Earth orbit. The project involves five space agencies: the United States' NASA, Russia's Roscosmos, Japan's JAXA, Europe's ESA, and Canada's CSA. The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The station serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific research is conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields. The ISS is suited for testing the spacecraft systems and equipment required for possible future long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars
The ISS consists of pressurised habitation modules, structural trusses, photovoltaic solar arrays, thermal radiators, docking ports, experiment bays and robotic arms. Major ISS modules have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets and US Space Shuttles. The station is serviced by a variety of visiting spacecraft: the Russian Soyuz and Progress, the SpaceX Dragon 2, and the Northrop Grumman Space Systems Cygnus, and formerly the American Space Shuttle, the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, and SpaceX Dragon 1. The Dragon spacecraft allows the return of pressurised cargo to Earth, which is used, for example, to repatriate scientific experiments for further analysis. As of April 2022, 251 astronauts, cosmonauts, and space tourists from 20 different nations have visited the space station, many of them multiple times.
The first ISS component was launched in 1998, and the first long-term residents arrived on 2 November 2000 after being launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 31 October 2000. The station has since been continuously occupied for 23 years and 18 days, the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit, having surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 days held by the Mir space station. The latest major pressurised module, Nauka, was fitted in 2021, a little over ten years after the previous major addition, Leonardo in 2011. In January 2022, the station's operation authorization was extended to 2030,