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Science News: Celebrating 20 years of the International Space Station

– G.A., Senior Editor

As 2020 draws to a close, it is a good time to celebrate some of the milestones that were reached this year. In November, NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first human presence aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Known as Expedition 1, the first inhabitants of the ISS were members of a three-person crew from Russia and the United States who set up essential life support and computer systems for the ISS. They launched into orbit on October 31, 2000 and began the long process of building and expanding the ISS. Thanks to ongoing efforts to maintain and upgrade the ISS over the subsequent years, the station is expected to remain in operation until at least 2030.

The ISS is an important research platform for studies that cannot be duplicated on earth. While the results of research conducted to date certainly have benefited humans back home on Earth, important advances in our understanding of how lifeforms can adapt to conditions away from their home planet will be put to the test by future human exploration missions.

While humans are not yet living on any other planets in our solar system, successfully reaching 20 years of continuous human presence on board the ISS in Earth’s orbit offers an important reminder of the challenges we have overcome. As humanity continues to push the bounds of our existence further beyond our original planet, we can look to the success of the ISS as an example of the success that can be achieved through international collaboration.

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