20 memorable moments from the International Space Station

Tuesday 20 November, 2018 marks 20 years of collaboration on the greatest international project of all time: the International Space Station.

Built, crewed and operated in partnership between the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe, the Station flies at approximately 400 km above Earth and circles the globe once every 90 minutes at a speed of around 28,000 km/h.

In its 20 years, the International Space Station has produced many memorable moments for Europe. Here we reflect on 20 of the best, as we celebrate yet another significant milestone for ESA and our partners in space.

1. 20 November, 1998 – The International Space Station is born. First module Zarya launches into low Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on board a Russian Proton rocket.

2. 2 November, 2000 – Continuous occupation of the International Space Station begins. NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev become the first crew to live on board the Station, staying several months.

3. 23 April, 2001 – Umberto Guidoni makes history as the first European astronaut to board the International Space Station.

4. 9 June, 2002 – Philippe Perrin becomes the first European astronaut to undertake a spacewalk (known to the crew as an Extravehicular Activity or EVA) as part of International Space Station construction.

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ESA flight directors at Col-CCAccess the image

5. October, 2004 – ESA’s Columbus Control Centre officially opens in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, Germany, providing a vital link between astronauts in space and teams of European scientists and engineers on the ground.

6. July – December 2006 – Thomas Reiter becomes the first European astronaut to stay long-term on board the International Space Station during his Astrolab mission.

7. 7 February, 2008 – ESA’s Columbus Laboratory launches to the International Space Station aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. This is ESA’s largest single contribution to the International Space Station and the first permanent European research facility in space.

8. 9 March, 2008 – ESA launches its first resupply ship, the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-1), to the International Space Station atop an Ariane-5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana.

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Frank De Winne near a window in the Japanese Kibo laboratoryAccess the image

9. 14 November, 2008 – Almost 60 years after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris on 10 December 1948, the Declaration of Human Rights is flown to space to be stored on a permanent basis inside ESA’s Columbus laboratory.

10. 10 October, 2009 – Frank De Winne takes over as the first ever European Commander of the International Space Station. Frank’s OasISS mission also marks the first time the crew includes representatives from all International Space Station partners.

11. 14 May, 2011 – Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on her second to last mission to the International Space Station carrying ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori.

12. 23 May, 2011 – Paolo Nespoli snaps historic images of the completed Space Station from the Soyuz TMA-20. Earlier in his MagISStra mission, Paolo also became first European astronaut to tweet from space.

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Thunderstorm seen from Space StationAccess the image

13. 29 May, 2013 – Luca Parmitano becomes the first astronaut from ESA’s Class of 2009 to serve on board the International Space Station. 

14. 22 December, 2014 – Timelapse imagery captured by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is used to create ESA’s first ever 4K video from space.

15. 6 June, 2015 – At 199 days, Samantha Cristoforetti breaks world record for longest single spaceflight by any female astronaut (subsequently surpassed by NASA’s Peggy Whitson).

16. 2015 – ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen captures rare footage of blue jets from the International Space Station during his Iriss mission. 

17. 24 April 2016 – Tim Peake gains Guinness World Record for fastest marathon run in space (3 hours, 35 minutes and 21 seconds)

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The record-breaking Expedition 50 crewAccess the image

18. November 2016 – Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong record a message for ESA and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from on board the Chinese space station Tiangong-2. Thomas responds.

19. 6 March 2017 – ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, and cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Andrei Borisenko and Sergei Ryzhikov set the record for most time spent on science in space – clocking a combined 99 hours of science over the course of a week.

20. 5 June 2018 –The first European facility for commercial research on the International Space Station (known as ICE Cubes) is installed in Europe's space laboratory Columbus.

Eager to take part in celebrations online? Share your most memorable International Space Station moments, photos or footage using hashtag #SpaceStation20th.

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