Exactly 25 years ago, in December of 1998, the U.S. Unity model and Russia's Zarya model came together, marking the beginning of the journey of what has since become known as the International Space Station. To mark the occasion, NASA on Wednesday shared a video showing the space shuttle Endeavour taking off with Unity.
"In December 1998, the six-member STS-88 crew connected Unity, the first American part of the International Space Station, with Zarya, already in orbit, symbolizing the historic assembly of the floating laboratory," NASA wrote in a post on the X social network.
The two-part "match" mission lasted 12 days and included three spacewalks by astronauts Jerry Ross and James Newman, who helped carry out the delicate assembly of the station. Four days after connecting the two modules, the space station welcomed its first visitors.
23 years of continuous human presence
More work was needed to make the station habitable, and two years later, in November 2000, the first long stay of astronauts was recorded. The event marked the beginning of the constant human presence in the "floating laboratory," which continues to this day.
Downstairs view of the International H Station, photo: NASA
Photograph of the International Space Station above Earth moving from an astronaut's body camera, photo: NASA
Many modules have been added to the space station over the years, which have increased its size and are intended for scientific research under conditions of zero gravity, which has since developed in many fields, including physics, chemistry, medicine, physiology, biology, biotechnology, etc., while the station also conducts research related to astrophysics and space exploration.
The operation of the station is currently overseen by five agencies: NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), the Japanese Space Research Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. All agencies operate the station simultaneously through command and control centers located on Earth.
Astronaut Scott Tingle on a moonwalk for maintenance on the International Space Station, Photo: NASA
Russian cosmanut Oleg Kononenko performs a spacewalk during maintenance of the space station, photo: Roscosmos
At the same time, the facility is getting older. While the station has been undergoing work in recent years to upgrade its electrical systems, NASA and other space agencies participating in the project plan to shut it down permanently by 2031.
Currently, the plan is to replace the aging station with a more modern, privately funded space station. It is estimated that at least one part of the next space station is expected to be deployed before the end of this decade.
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