The first expedition to the ISS turns 20. Astronauts, staff and other members of the mission recall how it all began and what challenges the station will face in the near future.
The first crew on the International Space Station appeared 20 years ago. NASA notes that since then 241 astronauts have visited the station, and the scientific complex has expanded significantly – an observation tower, 3 toilets, 6 sleeping compartments and 12 rooms have appeared.
The first ISS crew consisted of American Bill Shepard and Russians Sergey Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko – they went into space on October 31, 2000 and arrived on the ISS two days later. The Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft with the crew of the first long-term expedition docked to the Zvezda service module. The approach of the spacecraft to the station was carried out according to the scheme that was used during flights to the Mir station. 90 minutes after docking, the hatch was opened and the ISS-1 crew stepped on board for the first time.
The first thing the first crew did when they arrived at the space station on November 2, 2000 was to turn on the lights. Krikalev called it “very memorable.” Then they heated the water and activated the toilet. Shepard, a former Navy SEAL who served as the station commander, likened the first months of work to living on a ship in the ocean. Most of the time, the three astronauts worked with the technology, and the conditions in which they did it were more primitive than they are now.
Since then, the space station has become a scientific complex, its area is equal to the length of a football field. It consists of 13 kilometers of electrical conduits, 4,000 square meters of solar panels and three high-tech laboratories.
“Imagine 500 tons of things that are in one space, and most of them were not used in this way, never touched or fastened that way,” Shepard said in an interview with The Associated Press. – And now all this has been working for 20 years, and without big problems. This is a real testament to what can be done in such programs, even when it seems impossible. ”
Now astronauts have a permanent connection with the Earth, flight controllers and even phones for personal use. The first crew, on the other hand, used intermittent radio communications with the Earth, and shutdowns could last for hours.
The main problem of the station now is the growing threat from space debris. This year, the orbiting laboratory had to dodge debris three times. The last time the ISS dodged space debris was on September 23, 2020. Shortly before this, a source at the Mission Control Center in Moscow said that a dangerous approach of the ISS with an unrecognized space object was predicted.