The space lab, orbiting 227 nautical miles above Earth, has become a global platform where scientists from all over the world work with a common goal. It is the International Space Station where an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts created history on November 2, 2000, when they became the first occupants of the setup. They were NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev. That was Expedition 1, which has a duration of 136 days.

The latest batch is on Expedition 64, and the team has Kate Rubins, of NASA, along with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.

They arrived on October 14, and it happens to be the second expedition for both Rubins and Ryzhikov. Until now, the ISS has played host to 241 individuals from 19 countries. The space lab is the result of cooperation and collaboration between 15 nations. It is an example of creating something for the whole world by people who had the courage to rise above their political ideologies.

CNN quotes Kud-Sverchkov saying - "Since the anniversary is on a Monday, we'll be celebrating through hard work. And we will be remembering those who have been flying here for 20 years and all the 63 expeditions here before us. We really appreciate them."

The space station is a boon to science

Flying has always fascinated humans, and the dreams of Icarus and Daedalus became a reality when the Wright Brothers took to the air for the first time in 1903.

Then came the forays into space by the Russian dog Laika in 1957, the Russian cosmonaut Tereshkova in 1963, followed by Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon in 1969. Gradually humans began to venture into the uncharted territory of space. Their eyes on the Moon and Mars because of the untapped natural resources. The trio of Renewable Energy, robotics, and artificial intelligence are playing key roles.

CNN says crews on the International Space Station have undertaken innumerable spacewalks for maintenance of the space station. These helped them to get a feel of being on their own in alien surroundings and gain confidence.

Early days in the space station

Sergei Krikalev was one of the Russian cosmonauts who arrived at the International Space Station as a part of Expedition 1.

On arrival, they began with the basics. They switched on the lights and prepared a hot drink after spending two days in the Russian Soyuz capsule. There were three members in the team. The other two were NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko. During a recent press conference, Shepherd said their hands were always full. In his words, there was a new challenge every day. In the initial stages, most of the work was to complete building the space lab. Subsequently, the focus shifted to research. Incidentally, the first occupants began a tradition that has continued for two decades. It was to take their meals together to help bonding irrespective of their origins and beliefs.

Incidentally, the International Space Station has grown lettuces and leafy greens in space. In 2015, the occupants tasted the first space-grown salad, and efforts are on to grow other vegetables. The success would be useful during deep space missions. In February 2018, there were suggestions that the space lab could go into private hands.

The space lab has served the cause of science

According to the Washington Post, the International Space Station is aging. Its systems keep giving signals about its health. There are external threats, as well as micrometeorites and space debris. This year, there were three possible strikes, while in 2016, a piece of space debris damaged one of the windows. This magnificent structure would have to come down one day and possibly crash into the ocean.

CNN says NASA has certified the space station through 2024 and its hardware through 2028. Right now, it is used as a platform for the Artemis program of returning humans to the moon by 2024 and a future human-crewed mission to Mars. Russia has plans to launch something similar to the ISS in April. In December 2017, there were reports that the space station could get a Russian luxury hotel.