At any given time, up to six astronauts are flying 248 miles above Earth’s surface at over 17,000 miles per hour. Astronauts chosen to go to the International Space Station hail from nations across the world: the U.S., Russia, Japan, England and Italy, to name a few. Despite missions that average 6 months and the many risks of space travel (including but not limited to: fire, heights, small spaces, microscopic satellite debris that can tear the ISS apart), governments around the world continue to send their brightest minds into Low Earth Orbit to advance our knowledge back on Earth.
The International Space Station has been credited with being the second largest-ever peaceful investment in the collaboration of nations, second only to the United Nations. I find it beautiful that people from nations that have endured historically tumultuous relationships can work and live together in the name of science and humanity. At the end of the day, these are the people who understand the big picture—there is more to our universe than just Earth. We only have each other and should strive to understand one another rather than wasting time in gridlock.
Recently, NASA and Russia’s space program Roscosmos each sent one of their finest astronauts to the ISS to take part in a program dubbed the “Year in Space”. Astronaut Scott Kelly and Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko spent March 2015-March 2016 aboard the station, growing a friendship alongside a garden of zinnia flowers (that taught us about deep space botany as well as the physical and psychological benefits to having fresh food in space). Their contributions through giving their time and bodies to science make a looming trip to Mars seem more possible than ever. If we continue to make an effort to learn about, from, and with each other, then maintaining the word ‘international’ in International Space Station will be a breeze.
The International Space Station is a testament to all that can be accomplished when we work together and try to understand one another despite language barriers and cultural differences. At-risk towns in developing nations have access to water purification systems and improved vaccinations for common diseases thanks to technology created to make life easier and safer aboard the ISS. The station serves as a real-time monitor for air quality and can reroute at any given moment to have eyes on a natural disaster site. In learning how to protect astronauts from harmful effects of prolonged space travel, scientists on Earth learned how to prevent bone loss and have more knowledge than ever on osteoporosis. Alongside these benefits, advancements in space explorations are helping the global economy by giving businesses and interested individuals the chance to perform experiments in an orbiting laboratory or launch a new satellite—something unheard of 20 years ago.
Setting foot on Mars isn’t the only reason we need to continue international cooperation in space: interdependence on board leads to a better, safer life on the ground. With continued collaboration and candor, we can accomplish more together than we can alone. Because of technological advancements, including many made for space exploration, we have learned more about our universe and the world around us in the last 100 years than ever before. Going to the moon was a feat, but the future of space exploration is simply impossible without a coordinated global effort to research, fund projects and share our ideas.
By Lindsay Grant, Marketing Intern