Today marks a global milestone—10 years of human presence aboard the International Space Station (ISS). In addition to the 10-year achievement, last week saw the ISS become the longest continuously inhabited spacecraft by exceeding the Mir space station’s record of 3,644 days. Mir was deorbited in March 2001.
With this milestone under their (asteroid) belts, NASA and its international partners are looking ahead to the next 10 years. Under President Obama’s plan for NASA and the recent passage of the NASA Authorization bill, the ISS—which had been due to be scuttled halfway through the next decade—is now set to serve as an orbiting workspace and gravity-free domicile until at least 2020.
As President Obama said in his visit to Kennedy Space Center back in April:
“[W]e will extend the life of the International Space Station likely by more than five years, while actually using it for its intended purpose: conducting advanced research that can help improve the daily lives of people here on Earth, as well as testing and improving upon our capabilities in space. This includes technologies like more efficient life support systems that will help reduce the cost of future missions. And in order to reach the space station, we will work with a growing array of private companies competing to make getting to space easier and more affordable. ”
So while a decade of human occupation of the ISS was an extraordinary accomplishment in its own right, the next 10 years promise to be even more exciting.
Congratulations to the crew of six currently on orbit and to all the crews and teams on the ground that have contributed to the success of the ISS! The potential that this unique and magnificent laboratory has is just now being unlocked.