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Science & Tech

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
The former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.


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.

I binge-watched on my job, by night and the next day on my job and it's already making my performance in what I do (Artificial Intelligence applied to sustainability) better. I will recommend it a thousand times!

Chris is excellent. He made me feel I was right there beside him. He relates his extraordinary life experiences in a way that inspire. It’s not just the goal. It’s the journey.

Amazing, clear way of speaking. I love it! If you like space this in a behind scenes perspective. Fun!

This is the third class I've taken, and while I enjoyed both of the first two, this one was truly extraordinary. I especially loved the lesson on leadership, which caused me to reflect on how different a world we would live in, if more of our leaders had Col. Hadfield's perspective, dedication, and soul. The entire class was a joy.


A fellow student

Small correction, China was rejected from boarding the ISS by US that's why they built their own

Thomas F.

This is a great lecture. I am only somewhat confused by a gesture Chris Hadfield uses at 12:28 to represent the number three. I am not from the US, so I can't really tell: Is this how you typically represent number three? To me it seemed like the sign for white supremacy, but maybe I am a bit over-sensitized.

Bernardo F.

It was a great story, I knew general information about its building, but getting to know all those details is marvelous! Also, something that I really liked is how Chris talks about the ISS being the result of the nation's cooperation, the esence of science is that: no matter your background, that is, your country, your religion, your "race", your condition; if you want to work along other people to study, discover, create, etc. something useful for humanity, you're welcome.

Bobby C.

Slowly realizing just how much goes into get a person in to orbit. I have been keeping tabs on the basics that I would need to actually make it a possibility. My career path is already pointed towards being a commercial pilot. Perhaps I should add and solid understanding of physics and learning to speak Russian to the mix. If it ever comes to a point where we are sending a growing number of people too Mars on a regular basis, the goal would be in the pool of candidates.

Mário Filipe P.

Such a great lesson. Full of interesting facts and curiosities about the Space Station. From its conception, to its construction and assembly in Space. Its limitations and compromises in design, and the challenges they had to overcome in order to make it happen... it's incredible! You really get to understand why the Space Station is the way it is.

William D.

Nothing on why the shape/structure of the ISS is the way it is. What were the other choices. I remember shuttle flights testing early station truss structures in space. What other systems are needed to live in space. We say life support but when you really get down to it. There is a vast amount of equipment that is required to live in Space. We take many things for granted on earth that have to be provided for.


Chris is such an amazing narrator, i felt such emotions as he describes those 8 min and 40 seconds of launch, and the culimination of becoming weightless, Wow. Just incredible. :)

A fellow student

Mesmerizing!!! I was holding my breath as he walked us through the launch in lesson two!!! What a treat and I love how he shared it was his dream to go to space since age 9. I'll be watching it with my 9 year old grandson. Thank you Mr. Hadfield!

Michael C.

One of the most complex feats of science and collaboration - told face-to-face with the warmth of storytime. Awesome course, and thank you!

Ross W.

Just finished "WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO LAUNCH" and all I can say is EPIC! The description, Emotion, And Narrative really makes you feel you are there.