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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora