• Question: What is more important to keep the ISS running; the equipment or the people?

    Asked by EvilPossum123 to Andrea, Charlie 🚀, Col Op, Kirsty on 22 Jun 2016.
    • Photo: Kirsty Lindsay

      Kirsty Lindsay answered on 22 Jun 2016:

      The equipment- ISS can run without people, we just wouldn’t learn as much if the station was empty. Plus the people need the life support and power equipment to survive in space.

    • Photo: Columbus Operations

      Columbus Operations answered on 22 Jun 2016:

      Joao: This is a hard question to answer because the one thing can not exist without the other. The ISS was built to have Astronauts. It can be operated the equipment without Astronauts but there are many things that we can not do from ground. On the other hand, the Astronauts need the equipment to live. So you can’t really have that either. So basically, I would say they are equally important! 🙂

    • Photo: Andrea Boyd

      Andrea Boyd answered on 23 Jun 2016:

      I agree with both – we can run the space station without people no problem, but sometimes you need astronauts on board to fix some things that we can’t operate from the ground if they break. It’s the same everywhere, even with 100% highly advanced, automated systems you need reliability engineering and proactive maintenance. That was my entire previous job – fixing unexpected breakdowns in automatic equipment and programming industrial machines because we had over 800,000 different devices and in extreme environments they’re not going to run 24/7 without human intervention. That’s why we have redundant systems – when one breaks, we switch to the backup, fix the prime, then switch back to the prime or visa versa.

      Normally we fly the ISS from Mission Control and can run almost all systems from ground control. This is efficient for science experiments too, because we can run a ton of science in parallel from the ISS mission controls at the same time the astronauts run science (See http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/International_Space_Station/Control_centres)