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This paper presents an analysis of data derived from thousands of publicly available photographs showing life on the International Space Station (ISS) between 2000 and 2020. Our analysis uses crew and locational information from the photographs’ metadata to identify the distribution of different population groups—by gender, nationality, and space agency affiliation—across modules of the ISS, for the first time. Given the significance of the ISS as the most intensively inhabited space habitat to date, an international cooperative initiative involving 26 countries and five space agencies, and one of the most expensive building projects ever undertaken by humans, developing an understanding of which people are using different parts of the space station is critical for future usage of this and other stations. This study also sheds light on problems faced by future space station designers who are concerned with optimal usage of their habitats. The data from this investigation have been permanently deposited with Open Context. It is freely available for use under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0) at


This article was originally published in Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets in 2023.

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Copyright © 2023 by the authors. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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