What the International Space Station looks like now

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I always feel a bit uneasy about shuttle missions until they finally land. STS-124 landed just a while ago, making the mission a 100% success. Here's what the station looks like now:

Image:International Space Station (STS-124).jpg

And here are its current elements by themselves (this one obviously not a real photograph):

Image:ISS after STS-124 departure.jpg

This mission added the Japanese Pressurized Module (JEM-PM) and JEM Robotic Arm (JEM-RMS) for a total of an extra 15,900 kg to the station. The module has a length of 11.2 m and a width of 4.4 m.

Personally I find installing extra solar panels to be the most exciting because these increase the magnitude of the station the most, which makes it much more visible from the ground and hopefully able to excite the imagination even of people within a city when it passes overhead. At the moment I don't think it's quite at that level of brightness. It's somewhere around the magnitude of Venus, I believe. Here's an article from September 2006 for example about how it might rival Venus in the night sky, and since then there have been seven additional missions to install more parts.

I'll check the space.com forums to see if I can find any information or photographs on the ISS now.

Oh, and of course the ISS is always a little bit brighter when the Shuttle is docked, so right after a new component has been installed but before the Shuttle leaves is always when it'll be at its brightest for the next while.


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