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
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 was a pleasure to listen to. This was a great course.

The focus of applying lessons learned here to other areas of life is quite intriguing.

Very inspiring and interesting to hear the process of self actualisation from an astronaut.

I loved this class. I love Chris Hadfield's instructor style. Very easy-going but so very informative and insightful. I'm so glad I took the class.


Maddie W.

So fascinating to learn about all the different parts of the space station and really appreciate its size and the immense effort and cooperation that was required to build and maintain it. This reminds me of a StarTalk podcast I listened to once where Neil DeGrasse Tyson was actually interviewing Chris Hadfield and speculated that space exploration might be the one unifying endeavor for all of humanity. (It was a great podcast if you're interested; it's called Social Media in Space with Chris Hadfield, season 6, episode 21) It really puts Earthly troubles into perspective when you think about how much we can accomplish and discover about the universe when we all work together. This lesson gave me hope for a future where space exploration is a regular activity and mutual cooperation has transcended hatred and disagreement in a shared effort to travel among the stars.

Steve H.

Excellent explanation of the various modules of the ISS. The most amazing statement was that the Russian modules were limited by the size of railroad overpasses!


We loved it! The kids want to know how do you control the Canadarm and Canadarm 2? Thanks.

l S.

Nice lesson went into a lot of detail and his overall voice is so good for these types of videos! Loved it 10/10

A fellow student

I try to ask this question to all the astronauts I meet but no one gave me the right answer or convincing answer to me. I am sure you will Chris Hadfield, I appreciate your thought and time, Thank you So, my question is about Faith. Since there is a crew from all different skill-set backgrounds and countries, what do they basically believe in? If something goes wrong and science cannot predict its consequences or logic cannot solve the problem what do they do. Do they all believe in the same supernatural power of life (In short what this FAITH is in)? What if someone in ISS wants to speak of God's move, are they open to speaking of GOD? Also, Can We take violin to space?:-)

A fellow student

This is brilliant! Before watching this, I had no idea how nerve racking space exploration is!

A fellow student

CHRIS HADFIELD, I want to be a astronaut just like you and LOVE your MASTER-CLASS!

A fellow student

Yes, I also would like more science classes, chem and physics would be good start. Programming next...

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.