NASA honors the International Space Station’s 19th anniversary

NASA astronauts complete a spacewalk to install a new docking port for Commercial Crew capsules.

NASA honored the 19th anniversary of the International Space Station (ISS) on October 31 in a blog post.

NASA astronaut William “Shep” Shepherd blasted into orbit on Halloween 2000 to become the space station’s first commander. His historic interstellar residency paved the way for 19 years of humans living and working in low-Earth-orbit.

The current ISS crew honored the occasion with a Halloween-themed Twitter post. Their festive greeting contained photos of astronauts celebrating the special anniversary aboard the station through the years.

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The post also acknowledged the upcoming 20th-anniversary milestone that NASA and its ISS partners will celebrate next year.

Humble and Peaceful ISS Beginnings

Nineteen years ago, the Expedition One crew ventured into space to live in a much smaller space habitat than what today’s Expedition 61 crew enjoys. Back then, the ISS featured just three modules.

Shepherd flew to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft. Cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev of Roscosmos joined him two days later.

That crew worked to connect the first to ISS modules. The first was a “U.S.-funded, Russian-built power and control module called Zarya.” Notably, the other module was the first U.S. connecting node. It was named Unity.

Overall, Shepherd and his cosmonaut crewmembers made history upon entering the ISS for the first time. Their arrival and pioneering work in the microgravity environment paved the way for hundreds of future space station residents. Furthermore, each new crew member affirmed the peaceful co-existence of human beings from multiple races, creeds, and nationalities in space.

Notable ISS Statistics

Overall, today’s International Space Station represents one of the global space program’s most incredible achievements. The station’s impressive statistics speak for themselves.

Countries around the world built pieces of the station. Finished sections were delivered on 42 assembly flights. Thirty-seven of those flew on U.S. space shuttles. The remaining five flew on Russian Proton/Soyuz rockets.

Furthermore, the current ISS configuration took 11 years to build. The five-bedroom, two-bathroom, orbiting lab measures 357 feet from end to end. The massive facility weighs around 1 million pounds. Plus, elements of the space station are continuously being expanded and reconfigured.

To date, ISS crew members have performed 221 spacewalks to assemble, maintain, and upgrade the station. Recently, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history by performing the first all-female spacewalk.

A total of 15 nations built the orbiting lab together. Moreover, several leading space agencies coordinate an ongoing global effort to maintain the ISS.

Namely, NASA in the United States, Roscosmos in Russia, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) all work together to ensure that the station runs safely and smoothly.

To date, 239 visitors from 19 countries have visited or stayed at the space station. In total, ISS crew members have conducted 2,700 studies in space from 108 countries.

Recent studies include growing meat in microgravity, studying silica in space to make better tires, as well as retinal disease and Parkinson’s research.

Finally, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson currently holds the record for the most cumulative days in space at 665. She also set a record for the longest time that a female astronaut has spent in space on a single mission with 289 days. Michigan native Christina Koch is aiming to break Whitson’s record in December 2019.

Counting Down to the 20th Anniversary of the ISS

The space station’s 19th anniversary launches a yearlong countdown to its 20th-anniversary milestone. Throughout the year, NASA plans to share archival footage, STEM products, videos, special events, new logos, and more to the general public.

The content will recognize extraordinary ISS achievements. It will also demonstrate ways that space station research will advance NASA’s goals to land humans on the moon under the Artemis program.

Most importantly, the countdown will highlight the critical work that the ISS crew does with their international partners to benefit and enrich the lives of people here on Earth.