Here she comes. And there she goes. 16 times a day. The International Space Station, which completed 20 years in orbit last week, is humankind’s friendliest eye in the sky, a silent witness watching over us at every turn of our home planet.
It’s been an amazing ride and view. Just the sheer technological mastery necessary to keep it afloat, and the wealth of scientific data it provides daily, are enough to fulfill its lofty dream of being the space outpost of everyone of us, Earthlings.
Built by 16 nations, temporary home to 241 rocket scientists from 19 nationalities, the ISS is almost as long as an American football field. It’s like a six-bedroom hanging aloft, where groups of gifted dwellers extend our own grasp through outer space.
The station is a scientific research hub, from life to physical sciences, to astronomy to meteorology. Such as the yearlong study that paired and monitored twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly for a year. Mark, now a U.S. Senator-elect, remained in Houston, TX, while Scott raced overhead at five miles per second.
Above all, the ISS‘ greatest achievement is being a beacon to our best aspirations, of harmony among nations, working together to build a better future. As such a beautiful dream is far from becoming reality down here, it’s crucial that it survives in space.
A BLUE WORLD, ROUND AS PIE
Watching it sliding soundlessly above high mountains of clouds and vast water mirrors, allows us also into a truly surprising realization: all ground noise we make, tall buildings we erect, and border walls we raise, are invisible and meaningless from the air.
The ISS sees no wars, hate, hunger, tragedy. It does, however, observe the terrible ways we treat Earth as it’s easy to spot air pollution from above, just like the desertification of land and the smoke of wildfires caused by our abandon. And that’s beyond sad.
From up there, lies and climate change denials can’t be heard either, which is probably good. But not seeing rising sea levels or lines dividing people, doesn’t mean that we’re unaffected by them. All it takes is, well, an astronaut, to report their deadly impact.
THE THIRD BRIGHTEST IN THE SKY
Just like the dream behind its conception, the ISS is also vulnerable: a little debris the size of a quarter can disable it and risk the lives of its dwellers. And it’s also susceptible to the whims of near-sighted (more)
* Space Droppings
* Heavenly Palace
* Meanwhile, Up There
politicians and one-track-mind generals.
Speaking of residents, astronauts Sergey Ryzhikov, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, and Kate Rubins who have been tending shop at the space outpost, will host the SpaceX Crew-1 mission over the weekend.
The Crew Dragon, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi will dock early Sunday at the highest real estate in the world. They’ll all likely share a toast but then get as busy as anyone living on walkable gravity. No word on Christmas bonus, yet.
So, Happy 20th Birthday International Space Station. (It was on Nov. 2; we’re off by a week. Sorry, Expedition 64). We love that you’re still up there, guarding our heavens, and cherish seeing you zip by above our heads. Here’s to many more. Cheers
(*) Originally published on Dec. 29, 2018.