Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Aida. Aida Wonders, “What is the International Space Station?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Aida!

Have you ever dreamed of being an astronaut? Have you ever fantasized about stepping foot on another planet? How about living for a time on a spacecraft orbiting high above Earth? What would it be like to live on the International Space Station?

It's probably similar to life on the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek, right? Or would it be more like staying at a posh resort? Maybe it's sort of like living in your car?

The future predicted by Star Trek hasn't come along quite yet, and the International Space Station (ISS) is quite a bit different from either a posh resort or your average automobile. So what's life aboard the ISS like?

The ISS is a satellite that orbits Earth once every 90 minutes at an altitude of over 220 miles. It's a joint project sponsored by the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and several European countries.

The ISS can house up to 10 astronauts for expeditions that can last up to six months at a time. During that time, astronauts aboard the ISS follow a detailed daily schedule that tells them when to get up, eat, exercise, work, relax, and go to sleep.

The ISS has over 15,000 cubic feet of living space, which includes more room than your average three-bedroom home. Its laboratory is a key feature that makes all sorts of interesting research possible, because gravity can be virtually eliminated for extended periods of time.

The microgravity environment of the ISS makes everyday necessities, such as washing your hair and going to the bathroom, a bit more challenging than on Earth. For example, astronauts wash their hair with a rinseless shampoo. To use the bathroom, they must strap themselves to the toilet with leg restraints and thigh bars, while the toilet itself acts like a vacuum cleaner that sucks air and waste into special tanks.

Astronauts must spend about two hours each day exercising with special equipment built specifically for the ISS. Without regular exercise, astronauts would lose a significant amount of muscle and bone due to the microgravity environment in space.

The food astronauts eat is specifically designed for space missions. It comes in disposable packages that can be stored easily. While some foods, such as brownies, can be eaten in space just like they are on Earth, other foods pose special challenges. Do you like salt on your food? When you're in space, you can't shake salt onto food, because it would simply float away! As a result, astronauts have to use a special liquid version of salt.

When they're not busy conducting scientific experiments or doing maintenance on the ISS, astronauts can relax and have fun in a variety of ways. Sometimes it's fun simply to stare out the window at Earth spinning below. Other activities include listening to music, reading books, playing cards, watching movies, and talking with their families.

As you can see, the microgravity environment of the ISS presents certain challenges that don't exist on Earth. What do you think? Would you enjoy living for six months or more on the ISS?

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a closer look at the power of plastic!