Today marks the 10th anniversary of human habitation at the International Space Station, meaning that as of this week, humans have been living in space for more than two decades. That's a pretty impressive statement when you think about it.
The ISS has been continuously lived in since Nov. 2, 2000, when Expedition 1 commander Bill Shepherd and flight engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko became the first residents. Since then, 200 explorers have visited, 15 nations have contributed modules and hardware, and more than 600 experiments have been conducted, according to NASA.
The ISS is by far the biggest man-made satellite to ever orbit Earth; it is easily seen with the naked eye, and its solar panels can be seen through an amateur telescope.
Last week, the ISS finally surpassed the former Soviet Union and then Russian space station Mir as the longest lived-in station. Mir was occupied for a total of 3,641 days, from Sept. 8, 1989 to Aug. 28, 1999, according to Roscosmos. A 15-month gap separated the end of space station Mir and the beginning of the ISS — were it not for that window, humans would have lived continuously in space since the first Bush administration.
The first space station, the US' Skylab, didn't last long — it was in Earth's orbit from 1973 to 1979 and it was visited by crews just three times, in 1973 and 1974. Skylab was plagued with problems from the beginning; it was heavily damaged during launch, losing its micrometeoroid shield and one of its main solar panels. The US planned to launch a new station, Freedom, in the 1980s, but budget constraints nearly killed it. After the Soviet Union fell, President George H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed to cooperate in space, and the ISS was born. It's a compendium of five space agencies: NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
Astronauts aboard the station are continually conducting experiments in several fields, including the effects of weightlessness on plants and animals; how fluids and materials behave in microgravity; and the long-term health effects of living in space.
But the ISS' greatest achievements may be yet to come. In February, astronauts will install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02, designed to detect dark matter and uncover the secrets of the origins of the universe. The station is built to last through 2020, and beyond that, its future is anyone's guess — it could be turned into a a base camp for expeditions to the moon or Mars, crew quarters for an asteroid mission, or it could become a huge piece of space junk.
In honor of 10 years, here are some of the ISS' greatest hits and our fondest memories of our peaceful outpost in space.
It really is a huge structure.
Very impressive indeed...
on one hand.. i own videogame consoles/handhelds that are more than a decade old..
. .and on the BiG other hand. .
A collaboration of many countries building, launching, & then maintaining an International Space Station is a huge accomplishment for the aerospace industry :D
I say build another one & keep it just outside the debris cloud, perhaps closer to the moon.. should allow people to be a lot less paranoid.. either that or an unmanned ministation (robotics dont require much in the way of lifesupport)
I was so bummed when they canceled the habitation module, I think it's so haphazard they just sleep in random rooms. I feel like the habitation module would have made the station seem more like home. It had everything, rooms to sleep in, more radiation shielding, a galley. (sigh) The axing of the centrifugal module was a big let down too. I really hope they keep the station going. I also think it would be awesome if they made a few more Cupolas and attached them to the unused ports. It's too bad that after the shuttles are retired that the station will stop growing.
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It's dumb how the ISS will have spent more time in developement than inhabited. Honestly it makes no sense to me? Spent all this money and then just get rid of it?
@ZeroCool100 There are no plans to get rid of it any time soon. We still have B52's don't we?
@SJak They want to decommission the ISS in 2016. They need to save it and use it for something else. Don't build someting that takes that long to complete and costs that much and then just destroy it. Use it as a hotel or anything...
I think they wanted to hand it over to private upkeep, not necessarily decommission the station into space junk.
Modules are delivered by more ways then just a manned-shuttle.
NASA said that they want to de-orbit the ISS in the first part of 2016. They should hand it over to private upkeep.
I find it very impressive that it's actually happening, even so it's not really in mainstream media, it surely is out there in space!
I truly hope I live to see them land on Mars
I guess no one wants to have to go get those folks and bring them back once world war three starts...