The Nation and the World

The International Space Station turns 20

On November 2, 2000, the first crew arrived on the International Space Station, and it has been occupied ever since. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first crew’s arrival and celebrates the breakthroughs made possible by the spacecraft. 

The International Space Station is a large spacecraft orbiting around earth. The spacecraft holds astronauts from all over the world to conduct research that cannot be done on earth. It is called the “International” space station because it is built and used by many countries, all working together to craft a better understanding of space. The United States’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses the spacecraft to research about living and working in space, but the space station has science labs from Russia, Japan, and Europe as well. These discoveries and lessons will allow NASA and scientists from other countries to send humans deeper into space than ever before.

Although the first crew arrived in 2000, NASA and its partners from across the world added more pieces over time and eventually completed the spacecraft in 2011. The enormous space station is “big enough to cover a football field including the end zones,” according to NASA. It can fit six people to live in it and weighs almost a million pounds. 

As Mr. Brian Cook, Head of the Social Studies department, explained, the politics of the space station’s development greatly reflected the politics on earth in the 1990s. As the United States and Russia had just ended the Cold War, working together on the International Space Station showed the world a sign of peace and a future of working together.

There are currently seven astronauts on the Space Station, four from the United States, one from Russia, one from Japan, and one from Kazakhstan. They are studying plant growth and nutrition in microgravity, conducting cancer therapy research, studying how mining with microbes might be used on asteroids, and continuing research into the effects of microgravity on the heart. They left for space in October 2020 and plan on returning in April 2021. NASA explained that the expedition “will include research investigations focused on biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.”

Key research that has been conducted on the Space Station includes the limits of the fragility of the human body, interplanetary contamination, growing crystals for medicine, cosmic rays and  dark matter, and efficient combustion.

Image source: Wikipedia.

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