For over two decades, the International Space Station has been the home of humanity in space.
The orbiting laboratory was launched in 1998 and has exceeded its expected duration of 15 years.
ISS science has led to cutting-edge research and international scientific collaborations.
The International Space Station has been humanity’s only inhabited outpost in space for decades.
NASA aims to keep the space station running until 2030 and beyond, also opening it up to commercial space flight.
The head of the Russian space agency announced Tuesday that it would withdraw from the old station after 2024. But officials have since told NASA that they would like to continue cooperation at least until they build their own space station, according to Reuters. This could mean that the ISS would remain a beacon of international collaboration for at least another six years, Reuters reported.
Here are eight unforgettable moments from the ISS’s 24 years in space:
The landmark “Twins Study” which proved that living in space can change human DNA
Much of the research at the ISS is preparation for understanding the effect of space exploration on humans, before putting their boots on the moon and Mars. NASA’s groundbreaking “Twins Study” compared astronaut Mark Kelly’s health and biology with his identical Earth-bound twin, Scott Kelly.
The study, published in 2019, found that Kelly’s DNA changed in space. Upon Scott’s return to Earth after 340 days aboard the ISS, the researchers found that his telomeres – the protective caps at the end of the DNA strands – were unexpectedly longer than Mark’s telomeres.
Scientists are also conducting experiments aboard the ISS to combat bone and muscle loss. According to NASA, astronauts lose between 1 and 2% of their bone density for each month they spend in space.
The first observation of an unusual “cold flame”
During an unrelated experiment, conducted in 2012, scientists aboard the ISS were able to observe large droplets of heptane fuel that go out twice. While the initial burn was at the traditionally highest temperature, the second time it went out, scientists first observed soot-free low-temperature flames in steady-burning fuels.
This so-called “cold flame” flickers at about 600 degrees Celsius (about 1,120 degrees Fahrenheit), according to NASA. It’s about half the temperature of a candle flame, which burns at around 1,400 degrees Celsius (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit).
The flame burns much longer in a low-gravity environment, such as aboard the ISS, which allowed scientists to see the flame in the heptane fuel burn for the first time, according to NASA.
The discovery could help scientists use fuel more efficiently in the future and improve fire safety on the ISS.
Astronauts send the first tweets from the ISS
In 2010, astronaut Timothy “TJ” Creamer sent the first live tweet from the International Space Station, after the space station was upgraded to a better internet connection, which allowed astronauts to access social media.
This, however, was not the first tweet sent by an astronaut aboard the ISS.
Internet access on the space station was restricted until 2010, so astronaut Mike Massimino had a tweet sent by NASA on his behalf in 2009. Maximin relayed messages to NASA’s Mission Control Center on Earth and NASA there. tweeted:
“From orbit: the launch was fantastic !! I feel great, I am working hard and enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun”, tweeted Massimo, with the help of NASA.
The ISS has become one of the first destinations of space tourism
The first space tourist was Dennis Tito, a US millionaire who boarded the ISS on April 30, 2001 and remained on board for eight days.
In total, 14 people went to the space station as participants in commercial space flight, the official term for space tourists, including Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, Russian director Klim Shipenko, actor Yulia Peresild, billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and production assistant Yozo Hirano.
NASA has also opened up commercial space opportunities for the ISS in recent years. In April 2022, Axiom Space, a commercial aerospace company, launched the first private mission to the ISS. “We are opening a new era in human spaceflight,” Michael López-Alegría, former NASA astronaut, who is also an Axiom executive and mission commander, he said on Twitter in April. “We are taking the first step in a next-generation platform initiative that will bring work, life and research in space to a much wider, international audience.”
Astronauts grew plants on the ISS and made space tacos
The astronauts successfully grew fresh food aboard the space station in order to help NASA study plant growth under low gravity conditions, provide them with fresh larvae, and gain insight into how to provide future space travelers with a food source. sustainable and long-lasting. The agency says ISS astronauts have successfully harvested three types of lettuce, radish and peas. In 2021, scientists aboard the ISS grew space-grown chilies, using them, along with fajita beef and vegetables, to make the first space tacos.
Astronauts don’t just grow edible plants. In 2016, astronaut Scott Kelly shared photos of his space-grown zinnia flower, making it the first flower to bloom in space.
A Russian film crew filmed the first fictional film completely shot in space
A Russian film crew traveled to the ISS in October 2021 to shoot a feature film aboard the space station. The film follows a Russian doctor sent to the station to treat a critically ill cosmonaut.
“I’m feeling a little sad today,” actress Yulia Peresild told Russian state TV after landing on Earth after 12 days of filming, according to CBS News. “It seemed like 12 days was going to be a long time, but I didn’t want to leave when it was all over.”
However, there is controversy over whether this is the first fictional production shot in space. An eight-minute film shot by space tourist Richard Garriot, titled “Apogee of Fear”, is set aboard the ISS in 2008 and starred astronauts on the ISS.
A continuous example of international cooperation in a divided world
The ISS has been a shining example of international collaboration since its launch in 1998. The station involves space agencies from the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan, with a rotating crew of astronauts.
As of May 2022, according to NASA, hundreds of individuals from 20 countries have visited the ISS.
In July 2022, amid high tension between Russia and the United States over the war in Ukraine, the Russian space agency announced its plans to withdraw from the ISS after 2024, ending a ten-year partnership with NASA at the orbiting outpost. In a July 26 statement, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said the agency was not informed by Roscosmos of any plans to end cooperation with the ISS.
“NASA is committed to the safe operation of the International Space Station until 2030 and is coordinating with our partners,” Nelson said in the statement, according to the New York Times. “NASA has not been informed of the decisions of any of the partners.”
Dazzling views of Earth from space, including auroras and volcanic eruptions
Astronauts aboard the ISS, like the station itself, travel at 17,500 mph, 250 miles above the planet, and orbit it every 90 minutes. With this vantage point, they regularly share beautiful images looking at the Earth, taking photos of phenomena such as the aurora, violent storms, volcanic eruptions, and light pollution. In a 1987 book, author Frank White coined the term “the panoramic effect,” referring to the relationship of tall astronauts after seeing Earth from space.
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