astronaut mark vande hei hanging on to the ISS


The International Space Station is a football-field-sized science laboratory that orbits some 250 miles above Earth. Usually between three to nine people are on board at any time, and while it seems like they’re probably playing with floating water and watching their hair do funny things, they’re actually doing a lot of science.

In any case, there’s not a lot of spare time. The space station also takes work to maintain, which is one reason why astronauts conduct space walks. They often head into the void to repair or replace parts, or even set up scientific experiments on the outside of the station. This week we’re tagging along with some astronauts while they zoom around our planet.

Just a few days ago, NASA astronaut Christina Koch captured this truly epic photo of her best friend and fellow astronaut, Jessica Meir, launching from Earth and heading to the ISS. The perspective in this photo is quite stunning, because we can see the thin blue atmosphere of Earth, the launch trail of the Soyuz capsule as it climbs, and the dividing line of darkness that the ISS orbits within. And while this seems like a long trek, it only takes the Soyuz about five minutes to get into space, and another six hours before it catches up with the ISS—which is hurtling around Earth at 17,000 mph.

Check out more snapshots below from humanity’s remotest outpost.

Hold onto your hats, glasses, and everything else! Astronaut Mark Vande Hei hangs onto the outside of the International Space Station in a photo from October 2017. Look closely and see that he is tethered in two ways: from above and also by his belt, because the prospect of drifting off into space is, um, not desirable.Photograph: JSC



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