SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The final frontier. Three astronauts turned the International Space Station’s lights on Nov 2, 2000, and started 20 straight years of humans living in space aboard the International Space Station.

Courtesy NASA

The first three astronauts were two Russians and an American. They were Yuri Gidzenko, Sergei Krikalev, and Bill Shepherd.

The held hands in solidarity.

ISS is one of the greatest engineering achievements in history. NASA was directed to build it by President Ronald Reagan. It took 13 years with joint missions by many countries to complete construction.

We see it from the earth as a human-made star.

Things have changed since 2000. Now a spacecraft can get to the space station in as little as four hours.

According to, it is built as a suite of Russian living and research quarters, an American lab, a Japanese lab, three connecting nodes, a Canadian robot arm, a multi-window cupola (with a 360-degree view of Earth), and a football field-sized truss structure, which holds four sets of solar arrays, batteries, and radiators. If it were here on Earth, it would weigh almost a million pounds.

The U.S. lab was flow there by the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The living quarters are bigger than a six bedroom house.

Getting people to live together in space, has not been as challenging as it is on Earth.

Patrick Wiggins, the NASA Ambassador to Utah, said when he was in the military back in the ’60s, “The Soviet Union was the enemy, and living with them in space was not even on the radar. By the ’70s, the relationships were thawing on the ground. By the time the space station lights were turned on in 2000 everyone was working together in space, not so much ground”

He added, “When I was a young kid, I used to ask, ‘When will people be in space?” As a teenager, he said, “Is anyone in space today?” That changed after 2000 too, “How many people are in space today?’

In 20 years, the ISS has hosted 241 people from 19 different countries. The Astronauts have conducted 2,800 experiments from 4,000 researchers in 108 countries, and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited the station.

Space Shuttle at ISS Courtesy: NASA

According to NASA, astronauts have to work out for 2 hours a day, living in microgravity to help stop bone and muscle tissue loss.

The station orbits earth 16 times in a day, it travels through 16 separate sunrises and sunsets.

The space station flies at 5 miles per second, 18,000 mph, although NASA lists the speed as 17,500 mph.

The ISS passes over Utah several times a day, and every month it flies over when it’s really bright and easy to see with just your eyes.

You can see the Space station this week in Utah on Saturday, Nov 7, at about 6:37 A.M., and on Nov 8, at around 5:50 A.M.

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