One astronaut and two cosmonauts made history when they reached the International Space Staton Two decades ago. At the moment of their arrival, the station was considerably smaller than it is today as only a few modules were included in the initial design.
Tensions were around from the beginning. The first commander of the station wanted to nickname the station Alpha, but some of the Russian officials argued that the nickname was better suited for the Mir station, which was the first operational space station. In the end, Alpha was used for the length of the first expedition.
The construction of the International Space Station and continuous improvements are far from being affordable from certain points of view, as it is estimated that NASA has spent up to $150 billion on the space station until now.
It can be argued that the benefits outweigh the cost as the ISS has served at the as common link between the US and Russia during troubled times, while a large amount of scientific information was obtained at the same time, including pivotal data for medicine and technology.
While the ISS provided important research data from 2010 onwards, even more, scientific information will be collected in the following years. The partnership between SpaceX and NASA allows the latter to send an additional astronaut to the station, who can focus on scientific experiments.
Some members of the government argue that support for the space station should be retired by 2025, with a switch to services provided by commercial space flight companies. NASA has proposed the development of an ISS replacement, but the Congress hasn’t been willing to grant a sizeable budget for research, offering only $15 million instead of the $150 million per year that would be needed.
The future might be unclear, but the ISS will leave a major legacy behind when it will be retired.