The International Space Station: 20 years later

By Jeff Ayers — / Death Wish Coffee Blog


For the past 20 years, humans have been living and working continuously on the International Space Station (ISS). Over 100,000 people worked together to design and build the station, starting in the 1980s.  

The concept began as "Space Station Freedom" in 1984 and grew to a 15-nation unified front to create the ISS. The very first pieces of the station were sent into orbit in 1998, and after two years of work it was finally ready to safely become the home away from home for human beings.

(Photo from NASA)

On Halloween of 2000 a Russian Soyuz rocket launched to the station, and two days later on November 2, American astronaut William Shepard and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev entered the space station for the first time.

High above us, 254 miles above the Earth,  the ISS orbits the planet every 90 minutes traveling 17,000 miles an hour. Two hundred forty-one men and women have inhabited the ISS since the three-person crew of Expedition 1 spent 136 days aboard the station.

(Astronaut Reid Wiseman in the Destiny Lab - photo NASA)

David Nixon, who worked on the initial designs of the station in the 1980s, recently told National Geographic, "When you compare the station to the procession of great structures and buildings built by humanity since the dawn of civilization, it's up there with the Pyramids, the Acropolisall the great structures and edifices."

While it is safe to live on the station, remaining in space and experiencing microgravity does take a toll on the human body. Thanks to constant monitoring of astronauts' biological levels throughout the past two decades on the space station, there have been some advancements in how they live and work in that environment.

(Nicole Stott - photo from NASA)

In 2017, Death Wish Coffee talked with retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott about her time living on the space station, and asked her specifically about what it's like to perform a spacewalk. She told us after six hours of working in space for maintenance on the ISS, the first thing she wants when she returns to the station is a good cup of coffee. We also talked with Nicole again about eating and living on the ISS.

(Space X CRS-15 Dragon Capsule and packets of Death Wish Coffee)

So with Nicole's help, in 2018 Death Wish Coffee worked with NASA Food Labs to develop an instant freeze-dried version of our coffee and sent it to the space station for the astronauts of Expedition 62. (Learn more about this incredible experience here.)

(Photo taken by astronaut Don Pettit from the ISS)

We also talked with active NASA astronaut Don Pettit, the inventor of the zero-gravity coffee cup, about what it was like to live on the station, and even how he helped construct some of the modules on his first trip to the ISS.

The space station has also become a floating laboratory in space, and astronauts have conducted over 3,000 science experiments on the station. In fact, Death Wish Coffee returned to the ISS in 2019 as part of a student-led science experiment with help from the astronauts. You can learn more about that incredible opportunity here. 

NASA has its sights on the return to the moon and a new orbiting space station there, so the ISS is still going strong. In fact, since 2000 not every human being lives solely on Earth anymore, as space offers another out-of-this-world option. As a result, every space agency in the world wants to continue to keep that trend going. The station itself is on pace to operate until 2024 and hopefully will continue long after that.

Finallydid you know you can see the ISS fly across the night skyeven without a telescope? Head over to the Spot the Station website from NASA to find out when it will be in the sky near you.

RELATED: Watch our six part documentary series Humanity in Space


Older Blogs Newer Blogs