Since November 2, 2000, the International Space Station (ISS) has been occupied by humans, the longest ever for low-orbit space travel. The occasion was celebrated by NASA through the release of 16 GIFs that sum up the 16-year history of the ISS.
The GIFs go all the way from the station’s assembly process up to a recording of the expansion of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, the first expandable habitat to be sent to space.
16 GIFs for 16 years in space
The first GIF shows the animated building process of the International Space Station and the assembly of its modules. The ISS is the largest structure ever built in space, and even today, humans keep on using its many laboratories and computing systems to develop scientific research. The fourth GIF shows how the ISS’s robotic arm installs the Japanese Experiment Module to the station. The robotic arm is credited as the method through which the ISS was built piece by piece. The second GIF has the crew of Expedition 1 appearing on camera for the first time, marking the start of a new era of aeronautics and a new frontier.
Another GIF shows how Commander Frank Culbertson witnessed the September 11 attacks, being able to capture the aftermath of the events from the ISS. Culbertson was the single American not living on Earth, and he was coincidentally able to see a catastrophic terrorist act on one of the nation’s most emblematic cities.
One of the GIFs shows the development of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, where a SpaceX module latches onto the space station. This is a pretty new endeavor, where sustainable space travel will allow world companies to contribute to a new and exciting market where the only limits are the ones that science has not broken as of yet.
But without a question one of the most beautiful images that the GIFs show is the auroras being the result of energized solar wind particles striking atoms and molecules found in the Earth’s atmosphere. Auroras look like light curtains from the Earth, but from space, they look like a greenish mantle that is hard to compare to any other visual phenomenon.
Another GIF shows U.S. astronauts eating the first space-grown lettuce. Currently, the third lettuce crop plantation is now taking place aboard the station. Growing their own food will allow astronauts to take part in long-duration space missions.
“We expect this will increase the on-orbit crop yield, as well as allow for more opportunities to supplement our astronauts’ diets with fresh, nutritious food from the same plants, which is an important goal of the ‘pick-and-eat’ food concept.”
But in 16 years of continuous human presence aboard the ISS, aerospace agencies are starting to look even beyond their possibilities, mainly towards achieving space colonization, seeing that the only way to ensure that the human species persists for several more centuries is by developing the means to live in space.
The International Space Station can be seen with the naked eye. To check its current location, you can access ISSTracker.com