Happy Birthday, ISS!
Nations around the world will join
together to mark a milestone in space exploration this week,
celebrating the 10th birthday of a unique research laboratory, the
International Space Station.
Now the largest spacecraft ever built, the orbital assembly of
the space station began with the launch from Kazakhstan of the
bus-sized Zarya module on November 20, 1998. The launch began an
international construction project of unprecedented complexity and
The station is a venture of international cooperation among
NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency,
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, and 11 members of the
European Space Agency, or ESA: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany,
Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the
More than 100,000 people in space agencies and contractor
facilities in 37 US states and throughout the world are involved in
"The station's capability and sheer size today are truly
amazing," said International Space Station Program Manager Mike
Suffredini. "The tremendous technological achievement in orbit is
matched only by the cooperation and perseverance of its partners on
the ground. We have overcome differences in language, geography and
engineering philosophies to succeed."
Only a few weeks after the US-funded, Russian-built Zarya module
was launched from Kazakhstan, the space shuttle carried aloft the
Unity connector module in December 1998. Constructed on opposite
sides of Earth, Unity and Zarya met for the first time in space and
were joined to begin the orbital station's assembly and a decade of
Ten years later, the station's mass has expanded to more than
627,000 pounds, and its interior volume is more than 25,000 cubic
feet, comparable to the size of a five-bedroom house. Since Zarya's
launch as the early command, control and power module, there have
been 29 additional construction flights to the station: 27 aboard
the space shuttle and two additional Russian launches.
One hundred sixty seven individuals representing 14 countries
have visited the complex. The International Space Station hosts 19
research facilities, including nine sponsored by NASA, eight by ESA
and two by JAXA. Cooperation among international teams of humans
and robots is expected to become a mainstay of space exploration
throughout our solar system.
"With the International Space Station, we have learned so many
things -- and we're going to take that knowledge and apply it to
flying to the moon and Mars," said Expedition 18 Commander Mike
Fincke, now aboard the station. "Everything we're learning so close
to home, only 240 miles away from the planet, we can apply to the
moon 240,000 miles away."