Continuous human habitation in space began 15 years ago, when three people stepped onto an orbiting laboratory that space agencies see as a springboard to Mars.
On November 2, 2000, a Russian Soyuz rocket docked at the International Space Station carrying Expedition 1, made up of NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Roscosmos cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev.
Read the transcript of CNN’s live coverage of Expedition 1 in November 2000
For 136 days, 17 hours and 9 minutes, they lived in the narrow quarters of the station as it zipped silently around Earth at 5 miles per second, 250 miles above its surface.
To amuse global audiences, they played with weightlessness on camera. But mostly, they carried out experiments in the microgravity laboratory. NASA says breakthroughs have been achieved there that would not have been possible on Earth.
The station has been continuously inhabited since, and on Monday, to celebrate the anniversary, the current crew of Expedition 44 will talk live on camera.
Two of them, NASA’s Scott Kelly and Roscosmos’ Mikhail Kornienko, are on a one-year mission to test the effects on the human body of long-term stays in space. The experiment is a precursor to sending people to Mars.
Here are some facts and highlights of 15 years aboard the station, which has been visited by 200 people from 15 countries.
The International Space Station was built in collaboration by 16 countries — the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The International Space Station is about as large as a football field.
It weighs nearly 1 million pounds and is about the size of a football field. It has as much pressurized living and working space as a Boeing 747 passenger jet.
A Russian Proton rocket flew the first piece, the Zarya module, up to orbit in 1998. Even after Expedition 1 arrived, more pieces were added over the years.
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SOURCE: CNN, Ben Brumfield