While we 6.5 billion earthlings have been busy with our lives on Terra Firma, history is being made by the orbiting International Space Station, which, this Tuesday (2 November 2010) will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of people living permanently aboard.
Since the Expedition 1 crew arrived at the station, (5:21 a.m., Nov. 2, 2000), more than 196 humans scientists and astronauts - have continuously lived in the orbiting laboratory, and, by the exact time of the anniversary, the ISS will have completed 57,361 orbits of the Earth, travelling some 1.5 billion miles.
Such a momentous achievement, and yet, with much of the richer younger generation on earth now absorbed in a digital lifestyle, I dont think its an achievement that many youngsters think about. Maybe they are too busy on the World Wide Web, or on social networking sites, or texting and instant messaging each other, or playing games or watching online music videos.
But orbiting about 380 km (or 236 miles) above everyones heads is perhaps one of the strongest examples of the possibilities of world peace.
NASA says that the ISS is a venture of international cooperation involving NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and 11 members of the European Space Agency: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
According to the space agency, more than 100,000 people in space agencies and contractor facilities in 37 US states, and throughout the planet, are involved in this out- of-this-world endeavour.
The US human space flight programme started with the first Mercury flight on 5 May, 1961.
The first piece of the ISS was launched in 1998, and, like a giant jigsaw, subsequent modules have been attached. The station is still being constructed and is expected to be completed next year (2011).
This week is rich in space history because it also marks the final mission for space shuttle Discovery. On Wednesday, 3 November (3:52 pm US time) the STS-133 crew members will launch on a mission to take important spare parts to the ISS.
With each orbit of the ISS, NASA and its partners are re-writing the history of human achievement in space. The US Congress has approved the expenditure of US$19 trillion for NASA, from 2011 2014 and the space agency maintains that for every one dollar it spends, US$2 in benefits are generated.
NASA says: More than 600 different research and technology development experiments have been conducted on the station, many of which are producing advances in medicine, recycling systems and a fundamental understanding of the universe.
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