ISS Astronauts Mark 25 Years in Orbit with Joyous Celebration: A Milestone Anniversary in Space Exploration

Image credit NASA/SpaceX

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are gearing up to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the momentous union between the Russian Zarya and U.S. Unity modules, a defining chapter in the station’s history. The Expedition 70 crew, a diverse team representing all major ISS partners, will commemorate this milestone on December 6, 1998, and you can catch the live celebration on Space.com and NASA Television at 12:25 p.m. EST (1725 GMT).

The Zarya module embarked on its independent journey on November 20, 1998, propelled into space by a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Shortly after, on December 4, 1998, the Unity module reached space as part of the STS-88 space shuttle Endeavour mission.

The Expedition 70 crew comprises Commander Andreas Mogensen (European Space Agency), Jasmin Moghbeli (NASA), Satoshi Furukawa (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Loral O’Hara (NASA), and Russian cosmonauts Konstantin Borisov, Oleg Kononenko, and Nikolai Chub.

The ISS has transcended its humble beginnings of two modules to become a cutting-edge six-bedroom research facility. Over its 25-year journey, the ISS has hosted 273 individuals from 21 countries, witnessing nearly 270 spacewalks dedicated to servicing and assembling the space station. Crews conduct numerous experiments during missions, lasting between six months and a year.

The evolution of vehicles used to reach the ISS is notable. Initially reliant on the space shuttle and Russian Soyuz, today private companies like SpaceX and Northrop Grumman play a pivotal role in supplying the space station. U.S. companies, including SpaceX with Crew Dragon and Boeing with Starliner, now provide state-of-the-art transportation for astronauts.

The ISS has not only been a hub for scientific exploration but also a champion of diversity, marked by significant milestones. Highlights include the first all-woman spacewalk in 2019 and record-setting missions by astronauts such as NASA’s Victor Glover, Jessica Watkins, and Nicole Mann, showcasing contributions from astronauts of diverse backgrounds.

Looking ahead, most ISS partners are committed to extending the partnership until at least 2030. NASA is actively investing in private space stations, ensuring a sustained presence in low Earth orbit. While Russia remains committed to the ISS until 2028, the collective focus of ISS partners is shifting towards lunar exploration. NASA’s Artemis Accords, encompassing over 30 countries, champion peaceful space exploration. Simultaneously, Russia has forged an alliance with China for lunar-facing initiatives, aligning with the latest trends in global space exploration efforts.

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