Science & Technology

The ISS: Experiments

Chris Hadfield

Lesson time 13:02 min

Chris outlines a few experiments currently running on the ISS and explains how astronauts learn to conduct experiments in space on behalf of scientists on Earth.

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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The space station that's above our heads right now is like this big orbiting laboratory going 25 times the speed of sound. But it is covered in experiments. We have them on the inside. We have them bolted to the outside. There's like this book that's on the outside, like as if you took a briefcase and opened it up. And it's a whole bunch of materials to see how they do in the vacuum of space. There's even this super light gel that's out there. And what it's doing is collecting all the little super tiny grain of sand sized meteorites because we want to know, what's the universe made of? And so let's collect them in this aerogel. We've got sensors staring at the Earth on the outside. We've got telescopes staring at the universe. And on the inside, we have nanoparticle experiments. Because of course without gravity, things don't settle to the bottom. So we can study nanoparticles suspended in fluids. And if you make them reactive to an electric field or magnetic field, you can maybe change the fluid properties of a liquid by modifying, through an electric field, the orientation of the nanoparticles inside that fluid. You could then use that as a shock absorber underneath a building during an earthquake or in a car or something, potentially. And it's a place to study it without gravity. The space station is this is this great amalgam of experiments all jammed together. But there's a lot more experiments on earth than there is room in the racks on board the space station. And there's 15 different partners who have built the space station. So there's a constant battle of who can get their experiment up there. And we try and do it as logically and as efficiently as we can. What is the merit of this experiment? Why does it truly have to be in space? How highly do the really educated people in this field, the peers, how highly do they rank that experiment versus another? What sort of peer reviews does this experiment get versus other ones? And we try and map them altogether. Of course each country that's part of the space station has contributed some percentage of the cost of building it. So we apportion out rack space based on how much that country put into it to try and make it equable and fair. But it's a constant discussion. How much power is that experiment going to take? How much cooling does it need? Does it have waste gases? It's a big juggling match with almost an unlimited number of balls for the payloads in the experiment and the science teams on Earth. But up on the space station, the astronauts are just trying to make sure that all those experiments are working. We're the lab technicians. We're the lab rats. We're the repair team. We're the plumbers. We're the emergency-response team. We're just up there trying to be not just the brains but the hands and the eyes of all of those researchers all around the planet. At any given moment, there are hundreds of experiments running on the International Space Station. During...

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.

My favorite class to date. Inspirational, educational, and thought provoking. Chris Hadfield is super impressive!

Chris' advice on achieving one's goals is consistent with the messages given by other successful people from across all walks of life. The takeaway for me is that regardless of what you are trying to accomplish, the pathway is the same, underpinned by common principles.

An excellent introduction for new beginners to the study of space exploration and those who have been following closely for years! Thankyou!

Chris Hadfield is pure inspiration. His wise words have helped give structure and substance to everything I want to do. This is a class I will definitely revisit. Thank you!



This is like one of my favorite classes. So much science!!! Keep it comin', keep it comin'!!!

Deborah S.

Can we make this required science for high schools? Imagine the young minds expanding and developing what our future in space might look like. We can't short change our future by not sharing this with the future Astronauts and NASA engineers.

A fellow student

What if we use superconductive magnets for creating a local magnetic babble for defence our ship from radiation? Space is quite cold place. If we organise protection against sun rays we, probably can use second generation of high temperature superconductors (REPCO)

Jerry R.

Neil Armstrong said that the radiation problem was the next big thing we have to solve before going into outer space. Wondering if some kind of magnetic shielding device is the answer. No clue as to how it might work.

A fellow student

What about using that gel as radiation shielding? Then, assuming it works, you can examine it at the end of the ships life/mission and learn stuff.

Pedro C.

It is great to see how diverse experiements are being carried out at the ISS.

stasia P.

I am overwhelmed with the passion for which you teach and explain things that I thought would be hard for me to understand. I wish you could come to my house and explain to me why I have been doing laundry for 4 people for the past 24 years of my marriage and have lost thousand of socks… explain that to me please.


What a wonderful experience. I'm thrilled to be learning about space and how it all works. I love listening to how responsible these astronauts are. I can't imagine the immense amount of pressure that rides on them. Chris has such a classy way to represent his peers.


This Masterclass is probably the most insightful Source on manned Spaceflight in terms of experience, that I have ever found! Maybe a part two like with chef Ramsay Masterclass? But a Masterclass on more abstract concepts and astronomic theories would be amazing too.

Sally T.

I find the respect and passion Commander Hadfield has for his job to be very refreshing. Imagine being around a whole group of people like him - it would certainly inspire me to be the very best me I could be. Glad he's also using his talents an inspirational speaker.