International Space Station


ISS Partners group photoPresident Ronald Reagan in 1984 committed the U.S. to developing a permanently occupied space station and with NASA invited other countries to join in the project. In little more than a year after Reagan's declaration, nine of the European Space Agency's 13 member countries had signed on, as had Canada and Japan.

The years leading up to the Clinton presidency saw the Station's capabilities and missions grow. And in 1991 they witnessed the framing of program Phase I as President George Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to joint Space Shuttle-Mir missions that later would lay the groundwork for cooperative space station efforts.

President Bill Clinton in 1993 directed NASA to cut the program's cost and complexity while jump-starting the Station's research capabilities and bringing Russia into the fold.

NASA carried out the President's directive by streamlining the program, simplifying Station design, and adding Station research resources. It lowered costs by improving productivity, reducing overhead, and negotiating barter and cost-sharing agreements with its partners. And it brought Russia on board.

In addition to the Russian hardware already built or under construction for the International Space Station, that nation's contributions to the program include the nine joint Shuttle-Mir missions conducted from 1994 through 1998. Those missions provided invaluable knowledge in technology, scientific research and international space operations.

The redesigned orbiting research center was named the "International Space Station." It will provide more research opportunities, carry more crew, require less maintenance, generate higher power, and handle contingencies more effectively than any spacecraft before it.

Sixteen countries -- including 11 members of the European Space Agency—today are members of the International Space Station Team:

  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • The United Kingdom
  • The United States

More than 900 researchers from those and other countries are developing experiments that will be carried out on the ISS in biotechnology, combustion science, fluid physics, materials science, life sciences, engineering and technology, and Earth sciences.


In partnering to build and operate the ISS as a world-class research center in the unique environment of space, the participating nations are striving to:

  • Find solutions to crucial problems in medicine, ecology and other areas of science.
  • Lay the foundation for developing space-based commerce and enterprise.
  • Create greater worldwide demand for space-related education at all levels by cultivating the excitement, wonder and discovery that the ISS symbolizes.
  • Foster world peace through high-profile, long-term international cooperation in space.

ISS in support of the Exploration Vision:

  • The Presidents Exploration Vision calls for NASA to complete assembly of the ISS and meet our international partner commitments
  • ISS is a key component in the Exploration Vision
    • Platform for Research in bioastronautics and critical technologies
    • Demonstration of critical capabilities and countermeasures