The International Space Station orbits Earth about every 90 minutes. Image by NASA.
It was 20 years ago this month that astronaut William “Bill” Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev became the first to step aboard the International Space Station (ISS). That first crew resided onboard the station for several months. Since then, ISS has been continuously inhabited for more than two decades, growing from a small residence to a sprawling collection of laboratory modules, research platforms and crew living quarters. ISS has provided a platform for living and working for hundreds of men and women from countries around the world and figures prominently in the current list of duration-in-space records.
ISS is a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and the participating nations of the European Space Agency. Although the first piece of the I.S.S. — a module named Zarya — reached orbit in 1998, it took another two years for the first permanent crew to arrive at the station on November 2, 2000.
For Bill Shepherd and the two cosmonauts who made up Expedition 1, entrance into the early station marked the beginning of an unprecedented era of peaceful cooperation in space, ...