The International Space Station is a group project. Many countries have helped put it together. (NASA)

The International Space Station is a group project. Many countries have helped put it together. (NASA)

Like the first crew, the current residents on the ISS are one American and two Russians. From left are Kate Rubins, Sergey Ryzhikov, and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. (NASA)

Like the first crew, the current residents on the ISS are one American and two Russians. From left are Kate Rubins, Sergey Ryzhikov, and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. (NASA)

Bob Behnken (left) and Chris Cassidy give a thumbs up during a spacewalk on July 21, 2020. They are working on the ISS. (NASA)

Bob Behnken (left) and Chris Cassidy give a thumbs up during a spacewalk on July 21, 2020. They are working on the ISS. (NASA)

Sergei K. Krikalev works with his feet anchored in a tunnel hatchway. The first crew spent most of their time trying to get equipment to work. (NASA via AP)

Sergei K. Krikalev works with his feet anchored in a tunnel hatchway. The first crew spent most of their time trying to get equipment to work. (NASA via AP)

Different nations keep adding parts to the ISS. The Zvezda Service Module was launched in 2000. It provides living quarters and performs other functions. (NASA)

Different nations keep adding parts to the ISS. The Zvezda Service Module was launched in 2000. It provides living quarters and performs other functions. (NASA)

Many Nations, One Goal

Posted: January 1, 2021

Imagine you’re an astronaut looking out the space station’s cupola. (That’s a small, domed section of the ISS with seven windows.) Check out that floating blue ball—Earth, your home. But it’s not just your home, of course. Other astronauts have watched at the window too—astronauts from Canada, Russia, and Japan. Earth is home to all of you, people from all over the world.

Astronauts from 19 countries have floated through the space station hatches. That includes many repeat visitors who arrived on shuttles for short-term construction work and several tourists who paid their own way.

The ISS keeps growing because nations keep sending new parts to add on to it. One nation launches a piece. Another nation launches another. Then, in space, astronauts use those materials to add on to the ISS. People on the ground help too. Nations working together put the international in International Space Station.

The three astronauts on that first mission got along fine. But the Russians took orders from Russian Mission Control on the ground. The U.S. astronaut received commands from the United States. When the orders contradicted, the astronauts grew frustrated. Mr. Shepherd says he insisted the two countries come up with one plan.  

“I’ve got to say, that was my happiest day in space,” he says.

Now astronauts usually spend six months at the ISS at a time. A few have stayed for close to a year. Scientists watch these long-termers to see how time in space affects the human body.

But Mr. Shepherd and his crew barely had time for a handful of experiments. They worked and worked and worked. Mr. Gidzenko says they didn’t shave for days. It took a while just to find the razors.

Who calls the station home now? A group something like the first one—two Russians and one American. And just like the first crew, their favorite pastime is gazing down at Earth. It takes a mere 90 minutes for the station to circle the world. Astronauts on ISS can soak in 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day!

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! — Psalm 133:1