The International Space Station (ISS) turned 20 years old on November 20, 2018. The project was kicked by Russian space agency Roscosmos when it launched its Zarya module from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 20, 1998.
The launch was followed by NASA’s Unity module. The pair was joined in low-earth orbit, which kick-started a 13-year construction effort of the most ambitious construction project in the history of humanity. The result of the effort was a habitable artificial satellite, which currently serves as a giant orbiting observatory and laboratory.
1. On November 20, the International Space Station reached a two-decade milestone since the launch of its first module.
2. On this day in 1998, aerospace engineers from Russia and the United States celebrated the lift-off of the Russia-built, US-funded unit Zarya (“sunrise”) as it took off from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome.
3. At 11:40 am, the first component of the ISS made its way into orbit where it served as the foundation of an international space exploration program that continues today.
4. The most significant thrust for the success of the project was the co-operation between former Cold War rivals- the United States and Russia (part of Soviet Union that disintegrated in 1990).
5. Zarya would not have been possible had the two nations not kept aside the decades of nuclear tensions to share the expertise both sides had accumulated during and after the Space Race of the 1960s to further the common good.
6. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US tapped Russia’s skilled but idle space industry to help bring down costs and expedite Ronald Reagan’s 1984 vision of a “permanently manned space station.”
7. In their audacious bid to create a continuously inhabited structure 250 miles above the Earth, the long-time adversaries found a common ground.