Thursday, November 10, 2016

Station celebrates 16 years of occupation

On Nov. 2, 2000, 16 years ago, the first three people to inhabit the International Space Station arrived at the outpost in their Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft.

The trio – NASA astronaut William Sheperd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev – docked to the aft port of the Zvezda service module. At the time, the ISS consisted of only three pressurized modules.

After settling in, Sheperd called to NASA and requested the radio call sign "Alpha" to be used. He and Krikalev preferred using that rather than "International Space Station" as it was quicker and to the point.

Alpha, the first letter in the greek alphabet, had also been a considered a name for the ISS in the early 1990s, however the Russians did not approve feeling that their previous space station, Mir, would have been Alpha. They preferred either "Beta" or "Mir 2." Expedition 1 used Alpha for their call sign for the duration of their mission. Since then, however, the call sign has been simply "Station."

Sheperd, Krikalev and Gidzenko spent four-and-a-half months living aboard ISS. During that time a single Progress cargo ship and three space shuttles visited the complex.

The first two shuttles, Endeavour and Atlantis, each brought up pieces of the outpost. Endeavour brought the P6 truss in December 2000 while Atlantis brought the first station laboratory, Destiny, in February 2001.

Discovery launched in March 2001 and brought up supplies for the outpost. Additionally, the spacecraft ferried three new crew members to the outpost: Russian cosmonaut Yury Usachev and NASA astronauts James Voss and Susan Helms. They would form Expedition 2.

The Expedition 1 crew would return home in Discovery having completed 141 days in orbit. Today, the International Space Station is currently hosting Expedition 50. The outpost has since been completed and six people regularly inhabit it.

Since Nov. 2, 2000, there has always been at least two people living in orbit – a record time of uninterrupted occupation of space.

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