Riding a rocket must be incredibly exciting. But it must be even better to zoom on a rocket up to the International Space Station and stay there. The station, which first went into space on this day in 1998, is the biggest space structure ever built by humans (we can’t rule out aliens in other galaxies). It’s like a 357-foot-long building floating above us, about the length of a football field (and the giant Times Square billboard from Tuesday night). The ISS was built up in space, and it took 5 kinds of rockets more than 115 flights up there to bring all the parts. Scientists on the ISS do experiments to see how things grow and live in zero gravity, and to study the skies around us. The ISS sails about 268 miles above our heads and takes just 90 minutes to whiz around Earth once. You can find out here when it’s going to fly overhead so you can see it — and if that happens to be tonight, you can yell Happy Birthday.
Wee ones: If the space station has 5 astronauts on board including you, what numbers would you say to count the rest of them?
Little kids: Crew members spend 6 months on the ISS. If someone’s been there for 5 months, in what month does he or she have to fly back down here? (Assume we’re still in November.) Bonus: There have been 174 spacewalks on the ISS so the astronauts can fix outside parts. What number will the next one be?
Big kids: If the ISS is going to fly over your head 45 minutes from now, how long ago did it pass overhead? Bonus: How many full orbits does the ISS fly in 1 day (24 hours)?
The sky’s the limit: If the station passes overhead every 90 minutes, and you circle Earth in your own rocket every 2 hours on the same path, how many chances do you get each day to connect with the station and visit them? Assume you both start over your house at the start of the day (and don’t count that as a “chance”).
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, and 4…because you’re the 5th!
Little kids: December. Bonus: 175.
Big kids: 45 minutes ago. Bonus: 16 full orbits.
The sky’s the limit: The station will pass you (since it’s the faster one) 4 times, since it’s going around 16 times and you’re going around just 12 times. Another way of thinking of it: the station does 4 laps for each of your 3, and that means every 6 hours you’ll meet over your house. You won’t happen to cross over any other point on Earth.
And you can click here to get more daily math!