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Space station marking 20 years of people living in orbit

When the first crew moved in the International Space Station was cramped. Twenty years later, the complex has a lookout tower, three toilets, six sleeping compartments, and 12 rooms.

Till now astronauts from 19 countries floated through the space station hatches. American Bill Shepherd and Russians Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko were the first crew who blasted off from Kazakhstan on Oct. 31, 2000. They spent their time coaxing equipment to work, balky systems made the place too warm. Conditions were harder, compared with now.

The space station has since morphed into a complex that’s as long as a football field, with eight miles of electrical wiring, an acre of solar panels, and three high tech labs. Shepherd also said that “It’s 500 tons of stuff zooming around in space, most of which never touched each other until it got up there and bolted up, and it’s all run for 20 years with almost no big problems.”

“It’s a real testament to what can be done in these kinds of programs,” he said. Shepherd, 71, is long retired from NASA and currently lives in Virginia Beach. Krikalev, 62, and Gidzenko, 58, have risen in the Russian space ranks.


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