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Station Benefits for Humanity

The International Space Station is an unprecedented achievement in global human endeavors to build and utilize a research platform in space. Since 2000, the station evolved from an outpost into a highly capable microgravity laboratory. Results are compounding, new benefits are emerging, and the third decade is building on research.

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NASA's Big Plans to Explore Asteroids

The first decade of the International Space Station was the decade of construction. The second decade moved from initial studies…

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Your Orbiting Laboratory

This introduction summarizes the International Space Station’s unique research opportunities and key accomplishments to date. Learn how space station benefits are derived and look at the growing number of studies and facilities building on prior results as the station moves into its third decade, including from the perspective of its international partners.

Learn More About the Orbiting Laboratory about Your Orbiting Laboratory
astronaut peers at the Earth below looking through the cupola windows
NASA astronaut and Expedition 66 Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei peers at the Earth below from inside the seven-windowed cupola, the International Space Station’s window to the world. 

Seeing Our Home in a Whole New Light

From its orbit 402 kilometers (250 miles) above Earth, the International Space Station collects a variety of data and imagery that benefit humanity. More than 3.5 million photographs of Earth have contributed to research on our atmosphere and climate change, monitoring of and response to natural disasters such as flooding and volcanic eruptions, studies of light pollution, and much more.

Learn More About Crew Earth Observations about Seeing Our Home in a Whole New Light
astronaut David Saint-Jacques taking photos of earth from the space station
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency takes pictures of the Earth below from inside the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola.

Microbiology in Microgravity

Scientists use the International Space Station and its many tools, including DNA sequencing and genome editing, to study microbes – how they behave in sanitized and confined environments, how space may change them in ways that could affect human health, and whether they could be used to mine metals on other planets. 

Learn More About Station Microbiology Studies about Microbiology in Microgravity
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins looking at DNA sample inside space station laboratory
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins checks a sample for air bubbles prior to loading it in the biomolecule sequencer.

Advancing Human Health

Researchers from around the world use the International Space Station to address complex human health problems on Earth, studying disease formation, testing drugs and diagnostic tools, and examining the inner workings of the human body. Much of this work employs unique microgravity tools including protein crystals and tissue chips, as well as devices designed specifically for space but that also have been adapted for use on Earth. 

Learn More About Human Research Studies about Advancing Human Health
image of an astronaut doing an ultrasound on another astronaut
Using ADUM protocols, NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao performs an ultrasound examination of the eye on cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov.

Space 24 | 7 | 365

As a home to humans and a lab for scientific research for more than 20 years, the International Space Station is a one-of-a-kind platform for advancing technologies such as robots, computers, health monitors, life support systems, and more for both space and ground applications.

Learn More About Living in Space about Space 24 | 7 | 365
astronaut observing chile peppers growing in a plant habitat
NASA astronaut Kayla Barron observes chile peppers growing inside the Advanced Plant Habitat.

Bringing Humanity Along for the Ride

Space exploration and scientific discovery inspire people. The International Space Station seeks to share that inspiration as much as possible through various opportunities and programs.

Learn How Station Inspires People about Bringing Humanity Along for the Ride
image of students speaking with astronauts aboard the space station
Students participate in a live education downlink with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

New Frontiers in Physics

Microgravity enables study of the physics of the universe through a completely new lens. International Space Station scientists are discovering fundamental knowledge through research on colloids, bubbles, and fluid behavior.

Learn More About Physics Studies about New Frontiers in Physics
Image of a spherical blue flame burning in microgravity, spotted with tiny yellow dots of burning soot
This flame was one of many ignited as part of the Flame Design investigation inside the Combustion Integration Rack to investigate the amount of soot that is produced in different conditions. 

Growing the Low Earth Orbit Economy

As a platform used by small businesses, entrepreneurs, and researchers to test their science and technology in space, the International Space Station has supported development of new and improved products, spawned new commercial ventures, and provided growth for existing ones. 

Learn How Station Helps Grow the LEO Economy about Growing the Low Earth Orbit Economy
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer during a spacewalk
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer is pictured on the International Space Station’s truss structure during a spacewalk.