International Space Station
The International Space Station (ISS) is more powerful, and 4 times larger, than any human space craft ever built. ISS flies in an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees, approximately 240 miles above the Earth, in a path that covers 90% of the world’s population.
The ISS is a "global observation and diagnosis station." It promotes international Earth observations aimed at understanding and resolving the environmental issues of our home planet.
The space station offers a unique vantage for observing the Earth's ecosystems with hands-on and automated equipment. These options enable astronauts to observe and explain what they witness in real time. Station crews can observe and collect camera images of events as they unfold and may also provide input to ground personnel programming the station's automated Earth-sensing systems. This flexibility is an advantage over sensors on unmanned spacecraft, especially when unexpected natural events, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, occur.
A wide variety of Earth-observation payloads can be attached to the exposed facilities on the station's exterior; already, several instruments have been proposed by researchers from the partner countries. The station contributes to humanity by collecting data on the global climate, environmental change and natural hazards using its unique complement of crew-operated and automated Earth-observation payloads.
The existing international partnerships, fundamental to the International Space Station, facilitate data sharing that can benefit people around the world and promote international collaboration on other Earth-observation activities. The space station remains the springboard to NASA's next great leap in exploration, enabling research and technology developments that will benefit human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including asteroids and Mars. It is the blueprint for global cooperation – one that enables a multinational partnership and advances shared goals in space exploration.