20 years of human research on the International Space Station

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Science & Exploration

02/11/2020 267 views 14 likes

Expedition 1 crew

As the world celebrates two decades of humans in orbit around Earth on the International Space Station, this month’s science summary will look back not at four weeks of European research in space, but 20 years – with a focus on human research, naturally.

In November 2000 the first human entered the two-module International Space Station and ESA ran its first experiment just three months later.

Human and robotic exploration benefits infographic

ESA’s human spaceflight research coordinator Jennifer Ngo-Anh explains the benefits of Space Station research, “We typically run three types of experiments, research that cannot be done on Earth, research to understand and improve astronaut health and research that exploits the unique aspect of sending perfectly healthy and fit humans into a new and stressful environment.”

“As you will see from the list below, this research is helping us explore farther into our Solar System, but it benefits people on Earth with new knowledge, new technology and new techniques – spaceflight is a motor for ingenuity.”

Here are 20 of our favourite experiments from two decades of habitation:

Space Station stitch

This is just a small selection of the European experiments run on the International Space Station that focus on human research. Around 400 ESA investigations have been performed since the first module was launched and thousands more are led by the four other space agencies that work together to keep the Space Station aloft: NASA, Russia’s Roscosmos, Japan’s JAXA, and the Canadian Space Agency.

With the Space Station set to continue running for many more years, the future is bright for research in our unique laboratory. “We listened to researchers and companies and are making space research more accessible, for example with companies offering services to design, build, fly and run experiments in one package deal,” says Jennifer.

“Research run on the Space Station almost always delivers surprising results, advancing our knowledge of the world, humankind and benefiting people on Earth. For 20 years we have been working on the forefront of where science and engineering meet, and I am looking forward to seeing many more years of interesting experiments and results.”

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