The International Space Station: A Space Age Cathedral

Peering out of the cupola window of the International Space Station, astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson looks down on the planet on which we were all born. People looking up at that moment may have seen the ISS drifting overhead as a bright point of light. Credit: Expedition 24 crew, NASA.
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At an estimated cost of 100 billion dollars, the International Space Station may be the most expensive object ever constructed. Orbiting the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour (or 16 orbits per day), the ISS is larger than a football field and will weigh 400 metric tons when completed. Over 12 years, astronauts have spent more than 1,000 hours walking in space to piece together the many parts that make up this unique structure in the sky.

Neil talks with astronaut Shannon Walker while she’s still onboard the ISS about the challenges of spaceflight (including training for weightlessness aboard the so-called “vomit comet”), and speaks with Senator John Glenn about the future of the space station. Architect Jim Polshek brings us back down to Earth with the practical realities of creating buildings large and small. From the German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun’s early plans for a space station, to the history of cathedral building, to how space affects a spider’s ability to weave a web, to the history of the space station, learn how this cosmic construction can change the way we see the world.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to the entire episode ad-free here: The International Space Station: A Space Age Cathedral.

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