Press Release

International Space Station Marks Five Years in Orbit

By SpaceRef Editor
November 19, 2003
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International Space Station Marks Five Years in Orbit

The International Space Station reaches the historic five
years in space milestone on November 20, 2003. The unique
orbiting laboratory complex has grown from a lone, uninhabited
module into a permanently staffed, house-sized research

The Station remains the largest and most complex international
space research project in history. The Station will eventually
triple scientific capacity with components awaiting the Space
Shuttle’s return to flight.

The first Space Station element, the Russian Zarya control
module, was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Nov. 20, 1998.
Two weeks later, the Space Shuttle Endeavour delivered the
second element, the U.S. connecting module called Unity. The
challenges, triumphs and tragedy shared by the international
partnership since then have solidified cooperation on the
Station among the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and

“Together with our international partners we have learned how
to build, operate and maintain a very complex spacecraft,
through the good times and the bad,” said Bill Gerstenmaier,
NASA Space Station Program Manager. “With this experience to
guide us, we look forward to the future, with a vast expansion
of the Station on the horizon.”

At five years old, the Station is still growing. More than 80
tons of equipment and hardware are in the Space Station
Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla.
being prepared for launch.

The Space Station has orbited the Earth more than 29,000
times. It is visible in the night sky as it flies more than
210 miles overhead. The living and working area inside the
Station has a volume of about 15,000 cubic feet, larger than a
three-bedroom house.

The orbiting complex has been inhabited since Nov. 2, 2000.
Eight successive crews, 22 people, have staffed the Station.
Residents have conducted research in bioastronautics, physical
sciences, fundamental space biology, space product development
and space flight disciplines. In the U.S. Destiny Lab alone,
astronauts have worked on over 70 different science

Hundreds of people on Earth support Station operations from
the Station Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space
Center in Houston. Round-the-clock science operations are
handled by the Payload Operations Center team at NASA’s
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Hundreds of
other scientists and engineers perform important jobs, such as
training Station crews and building new hardware that will
become part of the orbiting laboratory.

Additional research facilities are being readied for launch on
future Shuttle missions. They will enhance Destiny’s
capabilities in the areas of fundamental space biology; glass
and porous ceramics materials processing research; human
physiology research; combustion research; research on the
behavior of fluids; Earth observations; and experiment
refrigerator/freezer conditioned sample storage.

Also awaiting launch at KSC are solar arrays and support
structures that will triple the sunlight-gathering, solar cell
area, thereby increasing the power dedicated to research by 84

The Node 2 module that will serve as a connector between the
U.S., European and Japanese research labs is at KSC undergoing
pre-launch processing. The Kibo Japanese Experiment Module,
including a pressurized lab already at KSC, will also be added
to the Station. The European Columbus Laboratory, under
construction in Bremen, Germany, will expand the Station’s
volume to almost that of a five-bedroom house.

For information about NASA, human spaceflight, astronauts, and
the International Space Station on the Internet, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.