International Space Station marks 20 years of continuous human presence

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins in front of the windows in the International Space Station’s cupola module during Expedition 49 in 2016. She returned to the space station in October 2020 as the Expedition 64 flight engineer marking the second mission of her NASA career. Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and her crewmates are celebrating the 20th anniversary of continuous human habitation of the International Space Station (ISS) today.

The ISS has been continuously occupied since November 2, 2000, when NASA astronaut and Expedition 1 commander William “Shep” Shepherd and flight engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko became the first residents.

At the time, the space station was only three modules, not the research complex that today is as large as a five-bedroom home with a gym, two bathrooms and a 360-degree bay window looking at Earth below.

RocketSTEM will be celebrating this major milestone of the ISS with articles, pictorials, word games and more about the world’s orbiting laboratory throughout the coming months.

An international crew of six people lives and works on the station while traveling at a speed of 8 kilometers per second, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes.

More than 2,700 experiments have been conducted on the space station from 108 different countries. These experiments have examined innovative technologies like waste plastic recycling and carbon dioxide filtration, both critical steps for long-duration missions on the lunar surface.

The ISS is visible to the naked eye in the night sky. Here is how to view it.

Download this ISS infographic as a larger-sized PDF by clicking on the image. Credit: NASA
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