From humble beginnings as a single cargo module back in 1998, the International Space Station (ISS) has gone on to become a global, expansive and truly exquisite research facility. It also has been part of quite a lot memorable moments in the history of mankind's journey into space.
The ISS was launched on November 20, 1998 and it is still the largest human-made object in low Earth orbit which can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth. The ISS consists of pressurised modules, solar arrays, external trusses, among others while these components were launched with help of Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets as well as American Space Shuttles.
Today, as we commemorate its 20 years in space, let's look at some of the interesting facts of the International Space Station.
# A successor to habitable artificial satellites, MIR and Skylab, ISS was built by Russian space agency Roscosmos in collaboration with NASA. The satellite now serves as an observatory, laboratory and post for advancing mankind's understanding of its own world and those beyond.
# a landmark act of co-operation between Russia and the US, laying to rest nuclear tensions that lasted for decades. The ISS was constructed with efforts from 16 nations including Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
# Around 357 feet in length, the ISS is the single largest manned object ever placed into space. The station is five times the size of the US' Skylab and four times larger than Russia's MIR.
# Apart from being the longest, it is the most expensive object ever built. The cost of the ISS is estimated to be north of $120 billion.
# The ISS travels at a whopping 5 miles-per-second. This means that the space station circles around the earth every 90 minutes. At the same pace, a spacecraft can go to the moon and return to Earth the same day.
# More than 230 people have visited the $150 billion laboratory in space since November 2000. NASA’s astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko from Russia became the first humans to stay long-term on the ISS in the year 2000.
# The ISS has 6 bedrooms and it is also the largest space vehicle ever built. The space station is the size of a football field.
# The station is expected to operate until at least 2028.