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JSC celebrates ten years of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station

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The Expedition 1 crew members are about to eat fresh fruit onboard the Zvezda Service Module. Pictured (from left) are cosmonaut Yuri P. Gidzenko, astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonaut Sergei K. Krikalev.
On Oct. 27, in conjunction with other NASA centers, Johnson Space Center commemorated 10 years of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station with a roundtable discussion on the past, present and future successes and challenges of the orbiting laboratory. The discussion’s six participants, all of whom played significant roles in helping NASA achieve a variety of station accomplishments, reflected upon the enormous amount of knowledge, dedication and perseverance that has gone into making possible long-duration life and research in space.

Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini; Chief Astronaut and Expeditions 5 and 16 crew member Peggy Whitson; astronaut and Expedition 14 crew member Mike Lopez-Alegria; Expedition 15 and 16 crew member Clay Anderson; Chief of the Flight Director Office John McCullough; and Boeing’s director of Avionics and Software, John Vollmer, answered questions about the station’s most significant accomplishments, important large- and small-scale technical challenges faced and overcome and their biggest hopes for the laboratory’s next decade.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson, Expedition 16 commander, works in the vestibule between the Harmony node and Destiny laboratory of the space station.
Astronaut Peggy Whitson, Expedition 16 commander, works in the vestibule between the Harmony node and Destiny laboratory of the space station.
Whitson identified coordination between the 15 nations that have contributed to the construction and management of the space station as the last decade’s greatest triumph.

“The international partnership is probably the most significant accomplishment,” Whitson said. “Not only is it the politics, but to be able to understand everyone well enough to be able to put together pieces of hardware (in space) that we didn’t actually put together on the ground—putting it together up on orbit was pretty special.”

Suffredini echoed Whitson’s sentiment, saying that the collaborative effort between more than a dozen nations has made station enormously successful.

“When you take a few moments to realize that those elements were built—many of them here, many of them in other countries—and not one saw each other before they got to orbit … And you reflect on the very small problems that we occasionally dealt with during assembly of (the space station), that is awe-inspiring.”

Lopez-Alegria specifically reflected upon how much the relationship between the United States and Russia has changed since the race to space began in the 1950s.

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A computer-generated rendering of the International Space Station after STS-133 brings additional hardware—Express Logistics Carrier 4 and Permanent Multipurpose Module—to the orbiting laboratory.
“I actually wore my U.S. Navy uniform in Red Square (before going into space) and laid flowers at Yuri Gagarin’s grave there at the Kremlin,” Lopez-Alegria said. “I think that speaks volumes. If we can continue serving as the United Nations at zero-g, I think that’s a wonderful achievement.”

Several discussion participants agreed that one of station’s greatest feats looking forward must be to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers to continue to explore space.

“(Station) gives people something to look up to and something to dream about,” Anderson said. “We don’t know what the next spectacular activity is going to be, but maybe they do.”

Vollmer noted, “I’d really like to see the station represent an inspiration for the next generation, just as Apollo did for my generation.”

Since the crew of Expedition 1 arrived at the budding outpost on Nov. 2, 2000, 196 different people representing 15 nations have visited the station. It has traveled 1.5 billion miles in orbit—roughly the equivalent of eight round trips to the sun.

Said Suffridini: “Humanity will explore beyond low-Earth orbit, and this really is the first step in that endeavor.”


Rachel Kraft
Johnson Space Center, Houston
281-792-7690

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