This week marks the 15th anniversary of how the International Space Station took on its first crew. After 180 months of work in orbit, she was not empty for a day, she was visited by more than 220 astronauts and space tourists. This article focuses on the ups and downs of the most ambitious international space project.
In the photo: NASA astronaut William Shepard (center), Yuri Gidzenko (left), and Sergey Krikalev (right), aboard the International Space Station. 15 years ago, the ISS was not the first orbiting station to host American and Russian astronauts, but unlike the Skylab and Mir projects, it was a joint international project from the very beginning.
The project began on November 20, 1998, with the launch of the Zarya control module by Russia (shown in the center, with short solar panels). To install the Unity intermediate modules, it took three flights under the Space Shuttle program, they delivered supplies to the station and made preparations for the arrival of the Zvezda service module, delivered by the Progress cargo ship. To fully prepare the station for the arrival of the first crew, it took two more missions of the Shuttle to deliver additional equipment and supplies. The first team arrived at the station aboard the Russian “Union”, two days after its launch on October 31, 2000. The first mission in space of 4.5 months began.
The first crew of the station went down in history under the name “Expedition One”. During their work, they received two guest crews who delivered the American Destiny research module to the station. Thus, the station by the time of the first replacement of the main crew on March 10, 2001 has grown substantially. The transfer of control of the station to a new crew marked the beginning of a continuous rotation of cosmonauts and astronauts. Currently, Expedition 45 is on board, led by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.
During the 167-day flight of the second expedition, the crew (consisting of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev and NASA astronauts Susan Helms and James Voss) had the honor of becoming the first ambassadors in space - Russia insisted on the flight of a space tourist, Dennis Tito. NASA vehemently opposed an American businessman on board. They claimed that the time for non-professional cosmonauts to stay in outer space had not yet come. Nevertheless, Dennis Tito, who paid $ 20 million, nevertheless arrived aboard the ISS with the new crew and spent 6 days at the station. Since then, six more people have visited the ISS as tourists. They paid a total of more than $ 40 million. One of Microsoft’s co-founders visited the station a full two times.
The station continued in normal mode until February 1, 2003. On this day, returning to Earth after a research flight, the shuttle Columbia crashed in the air. All seven astronauts aboard died. After that, all the flights of the shuttles were immediately stopped, and the responsibility for the work and the preservation of the ISS fell entirely on Russia’s shoulders. Shuttle flights resumed briefly in July 2005, but soon again stopped for their further modernization. In the photo: the crew of the “Columbia” STS-107 (top, left to right) - David Brown, pilot William McCool, payload specialist Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, commander Rick Hassband, Loirel Clark and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.
Having heeded the advice of the commission to investigate the crash of the Columbia shuttle, NASA decided to abandon the use of the remaining three ships upon the completion of the construction of the space station. To complete the construction, another 21 expeditions were needed, plus another to service the Hubble Space Telescope. The flight of the shuttle Atlantis (pictured) July 21, 2011 was the last in the program. During the penultimate flight, the “brother” of Atlantis delivered a particle detector of $ 2 billion worth to the ISS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer). With the decommissioning of shuttles out of service, the entire responsibility for rotating the crews of the ISS once again fell on Russia’s shoulders.
As part of planning for its flights, after shutting down the Space Shuttle program, NASA took the path of cost reduction. To transport people and goods into space, the decision to acquire transportation services was controversial in many estimates, instead of building and operating its own spacecraft. Eventually, the companies Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences (which, having merged with another company, later changed its name to Orbital ATK), began to carry out freight transport to the station. SpaceX got there first, during a test flight in May 2012 (pictured above). The astronauts on board the station used a special robotic arm to remove the capsule from orbit and pull it up to the station. NASA also paid SpaceX and Boeing transportation crews.
With the help of these companies, NASA successfully carried out cargo flights to the station before the first disaster on October 28, 2014. The Antares carrier rocket, pictured above, with the ship Cygnus on board, exploded in the first minutes after the launch at Wallops, Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic regional spaceport. The company plans to continue flights on the new version of Antares in 2016. Meanwhile, Orbital paid for the transportation of two Cygnus capsules on United Alliance Atlas missiles. SpaceX, which launches commercial satellites on its Falcon 9 rockets, also crashed when the seventh flight to the ISS was launched on June 28, 2015. SpaceX plans to resume flights in December, although the nearest flight to the station is not expected earlier than January 2016.
Despite the accidents, the political situation and financial problems, the international space cooperation of 15 countries not only did not stop, but also became a model for future international programs on sending people into space. In March, Russia and NASA embarked on a new project, which is expected to become a long-term joint study of the influence of outer space on the human body. The Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, pictured above, were the first objects of this study, which may pave the way for mankind to Mars.