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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid