The International Space Station (ISS) is a mini-city in space. It was built by the USA, Russia, Canada, Japan, Brazil and eleven member countries of ESA. The ISS will be the first stopover for missions exploring the solar system, such as the manned mission NASA may launch to Mars.
What sort of scientific investigation can be done on a space station?
Living with little gravity
If humans are to travel to the planets and stars then it is very important to study what effect little or no gravity has on our bodies over a long period of time. Since astronants live on the ISS for months, it is possible to measure changes to bones, muscle etc. as their bodies adapt to weightlessness.
Peering at our planet
As well as looking out to space, the men and women on the ISS can observe the Earth. They are able to study forests, oceans, mountains and the devastation caused by volcanoes, hurricanes and typhoons. They can also study the way that humans are affecting the Earth, causing problems like pollution and deforestation.
Balls of fire.
On the ISS it is possible to perform hundreds of experiments, which would be impossible on Earth.
Chemical reactions can be very different in low gravity. Even simple things like flames burn differently in space. They look like little balls of fire!