Sustainability In Space: ‘ISS Interactive’ Paints The World Green
Monday, October 29th, 2012
by AJ Plunkett
The International Space Station is often referred to as “humanity’s home in space“. But because space is generally inhospitable for humanity, much research and thought has gone into ways to make the ISS a better home for the astronauts who live and work there, starting with those basics of life: air, water, power, and food.
These basic things we often take for granted have to be shipped to, or created in, the Space Station. And the builders and operators of the Space Station — Canada, the United States, Russia, Japan, and participating European Space Agency nations — have gone to great lengths to make the Station’s air, water, power and food last as long as possible.
To sustain them, if you will. Indeed, if the Space Station were a color, it would probably be green.
And to show people just how green it is, this interactive multimedia site, ‘ISS — Painting the World Green,’ is available so that anyone can explore different sustainability features that have been built into the ISS.
The first section of the site compares consumption of power, water, food, and oxygen aboard the Space Station with that of a family living in a five-bedroom house. The house has a family of five living in 3,000 square feet, while the ISS can accommodate up to six astronauts, who live and work in 32,300 cubic feet of pressurized space. (The station is measured in cubic feet because there is no floor in space — astronauts float from partition to partition.)
While each American uses about 54 gallons of water a day, each astronaut uses only 7 gallons of water a day on the ISS — and 78 percent of that seven gallons is reclaimed. The family of five throws away 4.5 pounds of food waste a day. Aboard the station? Only a half a pound.
The site goes on to explain how the Station’s solar arrays capture sunlight and convert it to DC power, which is then routed through switching stations and onwards to where it is needed on the Station. Another section of the site shows how supplies get to the Station, how they are off-loaded and stored upon arrival, and how waste is packed onto the empty cargo ships for disposal. It also lets you help put the supplies in their proper stowage areas.
Perhaps the most fun to be had is with the section on air and water; how it is created, contained, used and reused in different areas of the ISS. (Yep, that includes recycling urine and even perspiration — there may be 32,300 cubic feet on that Station, but they have to have plenty of room for experiments and equipment.)
Also, check out the area that talks about how the Station is heated and cooled as necessary. And, finally, some fun facts to know and tell:
- For instance, while the Station has all that cubic space, it is only 361 feet long.
- And it takes about four tons of supplies to support a three-person crew for six months – food, water, and other supplies are delivered at least seven times a year.
How about that — what if you could go to the store only seven times a year? That’s quite a shopping list.
AJ Plunkett is a freelance writer in Virginia with experience in covering defense and aerospace industries, as well as health care issues. AJ blogs via Contently.com.