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

Ukraine President Appeals for More US Support

Speaking before Congress ahead of meeting with President Obama, Petro Poroshenko urges lawmakers to back Ukraine in its quest for freedom and democracy More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to the Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20B in India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high-profile visit More

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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid