Return to Human Space Flight home page

Space Work

Shuttle and station astronauts perform many tasks as they orbit the Earth. The space shuttle is a versatile vehicle that provides facilities to perform science experiments, release and capture huge satellites and even assemble the International Space Station. However, the space shuttle was only designed to fly in space for about two and a half weeks at a time.

Tour the inside of the Zvezda Service Module and watch astronauts at work.
*
Media Player - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video -28 Kb/56 Kb

The space station, on the other hand, is designed to be a permanent orbiting research facility. Its major purpose is to perform world-class science and research that only the microgravity environment can provide. The station crew spends their day working on science experiments that require their input, as well as monitoring those that are controlled from the ground. They also take part in medical experiments to determine how well their bodies are adjusting to living with no gravity for long periods of time.

Working on the space station also means ensuring the maintenance and health of the orbiting platform. Crewmembers are constantly checking support systems and cleaning filters, updating computer equipment - doing many of the things a homeowner must do to ensure their largest investment stays in good shape. Similarly, Mission Control constantly monitors the space station and sends messages each day through voice or e-mail with new instructions or plans to assist the crew members in their daily routine.

Shuttle crew members look outside the shuttle's cockpit window.Marsha Ivins is in the shuttle's aft flight deck.Shuttle pilot Charlie Hobaugh works inside the International Space Station.
Click an image to see astronauts at work.

Before the International Space Station and the Russian Mir space station, the space shuttle was the only vehicle that NASA astronauts could live and work on for days at a time. The space shuttle would deliver satellites to space that could broadcast communications or peer into the edge of the universe. Of course, the crewmembers would carefully check all systems before finally releasing a satellite into Earth orbit.

On Christmas day 1999, the STS-103 astronauts release the Hubble Space Telescope.
*
Media Player - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video -28 Kb/56 Kb

Probably the most famous satellite released from the space shuttle's payload bay is the Hubble Space Telescope. The shuttle has even returned to space three times with replacement parts destined for Hubble. Before the Hubble can be fitted with new parts, though, an astronaut must use the shuttle's robotic arm to capture the satellite and then maneuver it inside the payload bay where it can be secured. Then, space walkers venture into the payload bay, climb up the Hubble Space Telescope and install the new parts. After ground controllers are sure the Hubble Space Telescope is in good condition, the robotic arm grabs the satellite then releases it back into space.

Expedition One crew members work in the Zvezda Service Module.Expedition Two flight engineer James Voss prepares for a soldering task.Expedition Two flight engineer Susan Helms installs a video camera inside the Zarya Control Module.
Click an image to see astronauts at work.

Research beneficial to life on Earth has been performed inside the space shuttle. For instance, protein crystals grown in space provide researchers insights into stronger, safer medications here on Earth. Plants grown in space help scientists learn how to grow healthier stronger plants on Earth. Plant experiments also help researchers understand the implications of feeding astronauts on long-term missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Studies have also been performed on astronauts themselves, mostly in an effort to determine the effects of microgravity on human bone and tissue.

Space walkers Jerry Ross and James Newman.
Do astronauts get weekends and holidays off?
*
*
*
*
Check out some videos...
Race from one end of the International Space Station to the other end.
*
Media Player Format - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video Format -28 Kb/56 Kb
Spend a typical day in space aboard the International Space Station.
*
Media Player Format - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video Format -28 Kb/56 Kb
A space walker works on the International Space Station's solar arrays.
*
Media Player Format - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video Format -28 Kb/56 Kb
This is an in-cabin view of a shuttle launch.
*
Media Player Format - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video Format -28 Kb/56 Kb
A narrator describes living in space in this tour of the International Space Station.
*
Media Player Format - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video Format -28 Kb/56 Kb
Space walkers perform many tasks during space station assembly.
*
Media Player Format - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video Format -28 Kb/56 Kb
Space walkers install the Z1 Truss on the space station during mission STS-92.
*
Media Player Format - 28 Kb/56 Kb
*
Real Video Format -28 Kb/56 Kb
Related Links
*
*
*
*

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
Web Accessibility and Policy Notices