Science & Technology

The ISS: Conception, Design, and Construction

Chris Hadfield

Lesson time 22:23 min

The International Space Station couldn’t have been built without teams coming together from around the world. Chris details the process of constructing the ISS and explains the idea of shared exploration.

Chris Hadfield
Teaches Space Exploration
In 28+ lessons, the former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.
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At the beginning of the space program, the hardest part was just getting there. Were our rockets good enough? First we tried with robots, then with-- with dogs and with chimpanzees, until eventually we thought maybe we can launch people. The Soviets launched Gagarin. The Americans launched Al Shepard and then John Glenn. And we were safely into orbit. But now the question is, what do you do next? Where do you go? How can we take advantage of this new human capability? One of the things to do is, of course, go explore even further. And that became the main purpose of the American program during the '60s, as Kennedy said, we will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, not because it's easy but because it is hard-- you know-- that challenging of the people. And that became the goal of the American program to try and put Neil and Buzz in a position where they could plant that flag on the surface and show that that was now part of human capability. But that was an endgame. Once we had safely landed on the moon and brought them back that part was complete. What we realized sort of in parallel was that if you're on board a space ship, you can do stuff that you can't do on Earth. There's essentially no gravity, or at least because of orbital mechanics, you're freed from the feeling of gravity. So you can do experiments in weightlessness that you cannot do on Earth. A bottle of salad dressing that when you pull it out of your fridge, all the heaviest stuff is right at the very bottom and all the light stuff is at the top, if there's no gravity of course those fluids are going to mix very differently, in the mixture of fluids and solids. Flame behaves differently without gravity. Heat doesn't rise, and therefore you can study flame in a whole new way. Changes to the human physiology where you remove one big variable, and suddenly you can learn things about the balance system, and the blood pressure regulation system, and the inner connection between vision and how your body processes perception of up and down. It's a laboratory for studying the human body itself. It's also an observatory. You're above the atmosphere. You could look at the universe with nothing in the way. And maybe even most significantly, if you're orbiting the planet, you go around the whole world multiple times a day, 16 times a day for-- for the type of orbits that we're normally at. So we can study the world in a way we never have before. And so the space agency said, going to the moon is a good short-term objective, but what we really want to do is take advantage of spaceflight and use it to benefit us back on Earth. And so we started building space stations, a place where not only could we successfully launch from the Earth, but we could go up and dock and take advantage of being there. And the beauty of a space station is it's not also a rocket ship. It's not just a vehicle that can shoulder its way up through the atmosphere, but you can more purpose ...

Explore the unknown

Impossible things happen. At age nine, Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to go to space. He eventually went there three times, becoming a commander of the International Space Station. In his MasterClass, Chris teaches you what it takes to explore space and what the future holds for humans in the final frontier. Learn about the science of space travel, life as an astronaut, and how flying in space will forever change the way you think about living on Earth.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Chris takes us through a journey all the way from dreaming to walk on the Moon to Astronaut training to completing a spacewalk in this extremely informative and for me, memorable Masterclass. A definite recommendation!

always follow your dreams, very inspiring to always believe that everything is possible and the impossible will be possible one day ... <3 great master of life, wonderful heartfelt stories and a purely authentic human being who brought us closer to outer space, thank you Chris and all the people that made your dreams happen ^^ I'm doing the same with my Fiancee <3

I LOVED Chris's class. So important in so many aspects/facets. Just awesome. I have to add that my cousin, Dr Charles Stark Draper, MIT, NASA lead to Apollo 11 team in navigation and guidance and got the ship and astronauts to and returned back from the Moon. In my DNA. Thrilling to me. This is going to be A Christmas gift to some family members in memory of our cousin.

I have read Chris Hadfield's book before taking this course, I was pleased that it wasn't simply the same information repackaged, and the amount of insight and information he gives us in these videos is amazing.


A fellow student

I challenge the developers of Masterclass to produce a chemistry and physics course to compliment the science and education sections dictated in this course. ( I am aware of a ton of YouTube personas who would gladly jump at an opportunity. Albeit sticking with the high value persons that are already in the roster may be in the best interest. ) For the 10% of us who are in actual pursuit of relative goals of this course and others a like, it would behoove us to at least inquire.

Deborah S.

The Arts and their unique thought processes have unveiled scientific reasoning through the united front of many Countries and cultures. In my lifetime, I have been blessed to work with not only geniuses in the art world, but scientists that have opened my mind to a better understanding of working together and to free ones mind with endless possibilities. Chris Hadfield is a master at explaining how these two valued sources of potential growth can basically overcome any obstacle and provide the global ability to conquer these obstacles together as a human race.

Ugo A. D.

Nice explanation as to the construction and purpose of ISS. I often view the ISS when it passes overhead here at home. Now I know how it's made and what it does. Good stuff.

Sergio N A.

Definitely the ISS will not be the last . While it is made to function until 2030 or more, the decision of the 15 nations can make it functioning until such a time that perhaps a bigger space station can be built--that is if finances will be very available. The ISS can be used as a jump off point for building more as well as a launching area for interplanetary exploration instead of launching them on earth where it can be more expensive. It reminds me of the idea of a bicycle wheel type of space station by the late Dr. Wernher von Braun and also of the late Dr. Gerard O'neill of the SSI where I was a Sr. Associate way back in the 80's. - Sergio N. Andres Jr.


The space station is huge! I'd like to see the sleeping and dining quarters. Also, I'd like to know how Chris felt the first time he did the space walk and was outside working on the arm. I hope the commercial world doesn't buy ads to destroy the beautiful look of the ISS.

A fellow student

What is needed to radiate heat out of the station? will a normal glycol coolant be circulated or is there a more complex heat pump system (on a later lesson he mentions Ammonia) and how does this work? what temperature must the radiators get to in order to have a good efficiency radiating? thanks!

Pedro C.

Excellent presentation and reading material. Cooperation among several countries had allowed wonderful achievements. It would be great to learn from this experience in order to build a more collaborative approach in the international community. There are lots of material that I need to work through before making any additional comments, or asking any questions. Great Lesson!!!

Angela D.

What a great lesson...easy to understand. I am thinking that I need to understand my SUV better, and not just drive it. lol

Peter A.

I genuinely appreciate that this is an international effort with no boarders. We are made for cooperation and innovation.

Bautista Q.

that's incredible, especially considering the complexity of just getting the materials there working through the orbital mechanics from the previous lessons, fascinating.