Fifteen years ago, Chris Hadfield‘s former space condo allowed its first tenants to experience what it’s like to live life somewhere other than Earth.
Before the Canadian astronaut grabbed his guitar and belted out his version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space (back in 2013), most of us had forgotten that Earth’s only habitable artificial satellite was circling our beautiful planet — with people on board.
Yep, since November 2000, the International Space Station (ISS) has had at least two people living in its quarters at all times. That means if you’ve ever looked up at the sky in the last 15 years, there was a human up there looking down at you (and seven billion other people).
Canada has a long history with the ISS. Although the shuttle’s now sprawling with 13 rooms, when Canadian astronaut Julie Payette was up there in 1999, it was just made up of two modules. Payette and her crew were tasked with bringing up a third module and other cargo to the station.
“This was such an exciting time because we were only the second crew ever to go to the space station,” she said to CTV News. “It was very small at the time, made up of two modules that had been put together in space just a couple months before.”
When Payette visited the ISS ten years later, she was shocked to see how much the shuttle had changed.
“I arrived to an enormous complex the size of a football field and people on board, so it was a completely different experience and we’ve made it, clearly,” Payette said.
So what exactly do the astronauts do while living in their very special space condo? Well 220 people (from 15 different countries!) have inhabited the ISS at one point or another. And, they’ve spent about 35 hours each week conducting research to advance scientific knowledge in Earth, space, physical, and biological sciences. Of those 220 people, seven of them were Canadian — the most famous of all being Chris Hadfield, of course.
See, without the ISS, we’d never know any of these things! Luckily, we’ll be able to learn a lot more, since NASA wants to keep the complex operational until 2024. For more cool deets on the ISS, check out the video, above.