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How big is the International Space Station?

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I took a trip to Houston recently for a friend’s wedding.  While there, he gave me a pretty extensive tour of NASA’s facilities.  We saw three things that really surprised me.

The first was a complete and original Saturn V rocket that was never launched.  It was housed in it’s own location where any visitor could get almost close enough to climb inside.  The immensity of this vehicle was shocking.  Seeing the various stages pulled apart, however, induced the most interesting realization.  Except for a tiny crew capsule, a little bit of wiring, pumps, and some fuel lines, the entire vehicle is just fuel tanks.

The next stop was at a full size mockup of the Space Shuttle Orbiter.  I could not believe how big the orbiter was and was shocked to see two partial full-size mockups under one roof.  The orbiter, without wings, was roughly the size of a small house, and these units are simply one piece of US astronaut training.  In total, the various orbiters have been launched into space over 130 times.  That’s like sending an entire neighborhood into orbit.

A little further down the way in the same facility, NASA houses a full size mockup of every habitable module of the International Space Station, also used for training.  This was equally impressive in scope.  The station is so large that the Space Shuttle Orbiter regularly docks there.  Additionally, it always has a Soyuz capsule as an emergency escape vehicle and can have up to two more spacecraft docked at any given time.

So I started wondering how big it really is.  The mockup at NASA didn’t have main support structures of the station and lacked any of the solar arrays.  The station is 73 meters long (240ft), 108.5 meters wide (356ft), 20 meters tall (66ft), and weighs 344,378 kg (759,224 lb).  Scale drawings nearby made it look big, and the numbers were big, but I couldn’t really visualize it.  When I realized the station was roughly the size of an NFL football field, I decided I had to make the image below.

(View Hi-Res here on Flickr)

The International Space Station is not going to be mistaken for a small moon, but seeing it hovering over a professional stadium (Lambeau Field) is still pretty damn impressive.

Category: Interesting Stuff

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One Response

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