Maintenance of the International Space Station

In Space

Unlike space shuttles or space capsules, the International Space Station (ISS) never returns to Earth. This means that the crewmembers on board the ISS are responsible not only for operating the Station, but for maintaining it as well.

Space Plumber

Chris Hadfield, doing a turn as space plumber, replacing a low-temperature cooling valve on the ISS. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA)

There are two types of on-orbit maintenance:

Watch this video in which Chris Hadfield conducts microbial air sampling on board the ISS.

For instance, former Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk was tasked with fixing a key component of the ISS's Oxygen Generator System, the Water Orbit Replaceable Unit, which is integral to life support on the Station!

Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Bob Thirsk

Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk displays the Water Orbit Replaceable Unit, which he removed and replaced to restore the Oxygen Generator System to full working capacity. (Credit: NASA)

Housekeeping, even in orbit!

Astronauts do not have only complex and difficult tasks to perform: they must also take care of household chores! Otherwise, small debris could become lodged in the circuits and cause damage. Astronauts could also inhale them.

Housekeeping tasks include:

The air vents are a little like the lost and found section: since objects float in microgravity, astronauts often find pencils, tools and other lost items in these vents!

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