News / USA

Humans Live Above Earth, 10 Years and Counting

Astronaut Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station
Astronaut Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station

As of this month, people have been living in space - 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year - for a full decade. NASA says at least another decade of exciting opportunities lies ahead onboard the International Space Station.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a retired astronaut himself, praised the six crew members living on board the International Space Station earlier this month.

"We never dreamed that we would be where we are today," he told them.

And just where would that be? Literally, it is some 400 kilometers above the Earth. The laboratory has logged about 2.4 billion kilometers in orbit. Astronauts inside have conducted more than 600 experiments. And, nearly 200 people from 15 countries have visited the space station, since it was first inhabited in November of the year 2000.

Yet, one decade on, the space station itself remains a work in progress.

The space shuttle Discovery is set to bring the final U.S. module to the station. Once that is installed, it will increase the size of the station to roughly 340 cubic meters of living space.

Astronauts Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock were living on the space station when it marked the 10th anniversary of continuous occupation November 2. They spoke to VOA from onboard the space station late last month.

Astronaut Shannon Walker on the International Space Station
Astronaut Shannon Walker on the International Space Station

Walker said she and her fellow astronauts are excited that the U.S. portion of the station is nearly finished.

"It's essentially completed now, in terms of laboratory space, and, so, with the final closet being put on, we'll have a better way to organize all the cargo we have up here and really be able to get down to the business of doing science, which is what the space station is all about," she said.

As NASA readies the space station for another decade, the U.S. space agency prepares to retire another high-profile program - its space shuttle fleet.

Astronaut Wheelock says, while it is sad to say goodbye to the shuttle program, there is much to look forward to in the coming years.

"Moving on as an agency, of course, now the space station will take center stage, pretty much, as our orbiting laboratory, and we'll have it in full utilization, bringing back the science to earth that we originally planned for the space station," said Wheelock.

Administrator Bolden says experiments being carried out on the space station are producing advances in medicine and recycling systems, while also giving scientists a better understanding of the universe. And, he says, lessons from the station will carry astronauts to Mars and beyond one day.

But before humans travel to Mars, NASA has plans for a humanoid to travel to the space station. The shuttle Discovery is set to carry Robonaut2, the first human-like robot to live on the space station. Robonaut2, or R2 for short, was designed to work safely beside humans in space - even using the same tools as its human crew mates. For now, NASA says, its primary job is to show engineers how dexterous robots behave in space.

Wheelock said the space station crew members will welcome their new humanoid crewmate, but he joked that they are reserving their final judgment until they meet.

"We're going to wait and see how he blends in and see if he's a good neighbor with us," Wheelock said. "We're looking forward to working with our engineers on the ground that have developed this Robonaut, and just to see what its capacity is and how it can assist us on board."

Robonaut2 could have a chance to be a good neighbor to astronauts on the space station for at least another decade.

The NASA Authorization bill, which President Obama signed into law last month, extends the U.S. commitment to the International Space Station to 2020. NASA Administrator Bolden says representatives of the five international agencies that built and operate the orbiting outpost have also agreed on this in principle.

The International Space Station lives up to its name as an international endeavor. It represents cooperation among NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and 11 members of the European Space Agency: Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs