The International Space Station (ISS) is 450 metric tons of super charged, multi-national, high grade technological wizardry. It has been merrily bombing round this planet at about 17,000 mph (which is 12 times the speed of a bullet coming out of the end of an assault rifle) for about 11 years. The ISS has been constantly manned and currently has six people chilling in it. It flies, well, more technically it falls, at between 205 and 255 miles above our shiny little heads, and whizzes round this watery rocky more than 15 times a day.
The thing is, these numbers and factoids seem fairly dry and we’re always being told about this mad stuff which is 100% out of our brain’s capacity to understand. How can you possibly visualise getting around the entire globe 15 times a day when it took me nearly 5 hours to get from Rugby to Brighton on the train/ bus over the bank holiday weekend. It’s too great for us to comprehend. But. The wonder of this ISS, is that you can see it from earth, regularly. It it just a swollen bright dot in the clear night sky, wending a merry arc across the black. But it means something, you can get time details of when you can catch a glimpse on the NASA Website, or if you are as tragic as I am you can get the NASA app for iPhone or Android for free.
You don’t need a telescope or binoculars, just your naked eyes. The ISS passes over at slightly different angles every fly past, and at most it only takes about 3 or 4 minutes to nip from the West horizon to the East. I recommend taking a glimpse one clear night.
Yes, it’s just a tiny, insignificant, glowing micro-orb, but when you realise it is a chunk of man made gubbins that’s carrying real live humans on it at 7,706 meters per second, it takes a different feel. It’s 100m long. Not small. Linford Christie, a few years ago, could have run the length of it in under 10 seconds, but that is still a sizable beast, no?