How Did They Build the International Space Station?

by Megan Ray Nichols 

The International Space Station has been in orbit around our home planet since 1998 when the first piece of the station was lifted into orbit. Now, the football field-sized space station sits in orbit above the Earth — but how did they build this massive piece of engineering? Let’s take a closer look the ISS and all the work that went into creating it.

A Global Collaboration

There’s a reason it’s called the International Space Station. It is the result of a massive collaboration with the space agencies in countries around the globe. It included engineers and experts from NASA in the United States, the Canadian Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the European Space Agency and Roscosmos out of Russia.

The station itself is divided into two segments — the Russian Orbital Segment,which includes four Russian owned sections, and the U.S. Orbital Segment, which includes portions that are owned by the U.S. and the other member countries.One of these sections, Zarya, is included in the Russian Orbital Segment because Russia built it, but it belongs to the United States because we funded it. Zarya is the first component of the ISS that was sent into orbit.

Years of Construction

Construction on the ISS started in the early 1990s, even though the first segment didn’t launch until 1998. The idea dates back to the Reagan Administration. In 1984’s State of the Union address, the then-President directed NASA to build an international space station within the next decade. If only he had known then how far that declaration would carry us.

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More Than Just A Green Carpet – The Science Behind Artificial Turf

by Jackie Edwards

Globally the artificial turf market is worth a staggering $2,060 million and it is growing at more than 6% per year. In the US and Canada artificial turf systems have had an oddly mixed past, cycling between periods of high popularity and, in some cases (such as in Vancouver), being outright banned. Modern artificial turf systems are far more complicated than you would ever imagine and while they don’t yet produce the smell of cut grass, they do mimic real turf in surprising ways.

The Bad Old Days

The original artificial turf systems seemed to be exactly what everyone needed. These instant lawns needed little upkeep, could be laid indoors and looked great. These were, in essence, simply green plastic carpets. The simplicity of them led to a boom in their use across the country but this boom proved to be a bubble. The original systems provided no real cushioning for those who impacted upon them causing a rise in sports injuries compared to real grass. In addition the plastic blades could be over 30 degrees hotter in the sun than grass. The bubble burst and many artificial turfs were ripped up and replaced with the real thing. Something had to change.

Starting From The Ground Up

Manufacturers realized that there was more to a lawn than just the grass itself. Artificial turf was often laid on top of concrete or tarmac because it needed stability to remain useful. Such a surface was unyielding and dangerous. Initial attempts were made to create subsurface structures that resembled soil. Crumbled rubber was good but it was still hot and did not allow for good drainage. Sand was great for drainage but it was abrasive and dangerous if it got in your eyes.

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Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for Your Next Vacation

by Megan Ray Nichols 

Summer is almost over, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan your next vacation. If you’re working on going green and lowering your family carbon footprint, traveling might be one of your biggest concerns — the tourism industry isn’t exactly as green as it could be. If you’re planning a vacation sometime soon, what can do you do to make your stay — no matter where you’re staying — a little bit greener?

Keep Transportation in Mind

Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, your mode of transportation is probably one of your biggest carbon culprits. Flying is currently the worst when it comes to emissions and pollution — one round-trip ticket from New York to San Francisco and back is roughly the equivalent of two metric tons of CO2. When you compare that to the fact that the average person only produces around 19 metric tons of CO2 per year, one flight is a lot more damaging than most people realize.

If you’re traveling out of the country, flying may be your only option, but you don’t need to spend a ton of money to be a little bit greener. Opt for nonstop flights whenever possible — takeoffs and landings create more CO2 emissions than flying does. Flying economy, while it may be less comfortable, means there are more people on the plane, which in turn translates to fewer emissions per person.

Finally, look into airlines that offer carbon offset programs to help reduce their emissions and reduce their environmental impact.

If you’re traveling by car or renting a car when you reach your destination, don’t go for the big SUV — no matter how much storage it has for your luggage. Instead, choose a fuel-efficient car — many rental agencies have hybrid or electric vehicles in their fleets. Look for a company that offers greener cars, and take advantage of those opportunities.

Skip the Tourist Traps

Tourist traps intend to bring in as many people as possible, but they aren’t eco-friendly. They only have one motive in mind: profit.

Instead, look for green-friendly options. Rent a bicycle and explore the city. Many big cities are making strides to become more bicycle-friendly, so not only is it easy to get your hands on a bicycle, it’s safer to travel by bike than it used to be.

If bicycle rental isn’t an option, walking is another great way to explore, especially if you’re visiting a big city. For areas with more sprawl, go back to the eco-friendly cars.

Many popular tourist destinations are offering eco-friendly tourism options — hotels that use renewable energy and supplies, take steps to reduce the waste they produce, etc. If you have the opportunity, try to stay in one of these hotels, instead of those that still use traditional hospitality techniques.

Pack Light

If you’re flying, you’re already shelling out a ton of money for tickets, rental cars and overpriced airport food because you can’t bring snacks from home anymore. Many airlines now also charge an extra fee for checked baggage, especially if your bag is heavier than a certain weight. You can save money and lower the overall weight of your plane — and thus the plane’s emissions — by packing light or even forgoing the checked luggage in favor of a carryon bag or two.

Boat Safety

Buying or renting a boat for your vacation can be a fun and scenic way to explore local waterways, but keep in mind a poorly maintained boat can be dangerous for local aquatic ecosystems. Old or unmaintained engines can leak gasoline and oil into the water. Old paint can chip off and end up in the food chain.

Purchasing an older boat can be a cost-effective way of enjoying the water without spending an arm and a leg, but if you pick up a used boat whose previous owner neglected to take care of it, it can take quite a bit of coin to get it back in working order.

If you’re handy, you can probably do a lot of the work yourself — but don’t do it while your boat is over the water. The last thing you want to do is drop old paint chips or old fuel into the waterways you’re trying to enjoy.

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