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.

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

Topics include: "Our First Settlement in Space • A Laboratory Built on International Collaboration • Big Picture Modular Design • Power, Heating, and Cooling • Orientation • Placement of Docking Ports • Laboratories • Canadarm and Canadarm2: Building the ISS • Commercial Space Stations"


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 ...

About the Instructor

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.

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Chris Hadfield

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

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