International Space Station: Humanity’s Home for 20 years

Article By : Anne-Françoise Pelé

The International Space Station (ISS) has been humanity’s home away from home for the past 20 years — a home for cooperation among the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and Europe, and a home for fundamental scientific research...

The brightest light in a clear night sky, the International Space Station (ISS) has been humanity’s home away from home for the past 20 years — a home for cooperation among the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and Europe, and a home for fundamental scientific research.

On Nov. 2, 2000, Expedition 1 docked with the fledgling orbital outpost. Its crew members, NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, entered the ISS from Soyuz TM-31. They stayed aboard the station for 136 days, heralding the era of a continuous human presence in space.

“It was very memorable switching on lights for the first time,” recalled Krikalev in a commemorative virtual roundtable with the original members of Expedition 1. “The goal of our mission was to make the station alive. Some of the hardware had never met each other on the ground, and we had to install it in space for the first time. It is the result of this experiment that we have been using up to now.”

From Expedition 1 to today’s Expedition 64, 241 astronauts, cosmonauts, and space tourists from 19 countries have called the ISS their home. Over the same span of time, the orbital laboratory has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from 108 countries.

The plasma Kristall-3 experiment, later known as PKE-Nefedov, was the first to be conducted on the space station. The Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and the Institute of High Energy Densities in Moscow collaborated on this project to study the formation and behavior of plasma and dust crystals in microgravity. During these past two decades, the ISS has enabled long-duration microgravity research, including tissue- and organ-on-chip development and the creation of a Bose-Einstein condensate that has provided insight into fundamental laws of quantum mechanics.

“We have proven to the world that when you’re joined in a common goal you can accomplish anything,” said Ginger Kerrick, Russian Training Integration Instructor for Expedition 1. “The ISS should be the model for how the world should be getting along, how the world should be making bigger and better things together.”

From the comfort of our own homes, we look up and see infinity. A bright star moves across the sky. It is the ISS orbiting Earth at 17,150 miles per hour. Whether it continues to operate for another 20 years or not, the ISS will remain a habitat for humanity. An epic journey of universal discovery.

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