What is a space station?An artificial structure placed in orbit and having a pressurized enclosure, power, supplies, and environmental systems required to support human life for extended periods in space is known as a space station. It is primarily used for activities like observations of the sun and other astronomical objects, study of the earth's resources and environment and understanding behavior of materials and biological systems in a state of weightlessness. Large space stations like the International Space Station (ISS) are sent up in modules and assembled in orbit. Since 1971, there have been nine such launches to build space stations. In chronological order, they are Salyut 1, Skylab, Salyuts 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, Mir, and the International Space Station. Except Skylab and ISS, the seven other space stations were Soviet-made.
When was the concept of space stations first conceived?
The idea was first popularized by German-American aerospace engineer Wernhervon Braun. Often known as the father of rocket science, Braun wrote a series of articles about his vision of a massive wheel shaped structure, which would be used to assemble vehicles for lunar expedition. The space station shown in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey is believed to be based on Braun's concept. During the Cold War the US and the Soviets were racing to land manned space flights to moon and the concept of a giant space station was abandoned. The Americans won the race to the moon and the Soviets used Soyuz spacecraft that they had developed for the moon race to launch a space station. The initial idea was to establish a station in orbit to be used for a military reconnaissance platform. However, the Soviet Union decided to initiate the program with a station equipped as a scientific laboratory rather than one with a military use and Salyut 1 was launched on April 19, 1971.