In the planning stages for years, construction of the International Space Station began with the launch of the U.S.-owned, Russian-built Zarya control module on November 20, 1998, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan. Next, the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on December 4, 1998. It carried the U.S.-built Unity connecting module. Unity and Zarya were connected by Endeavour’s crew during a 12-day mission to begin the International Space Station’s orbital construction.
In June 1999 with Discovery made the third ISS mission, supplying the two modules with tools and cranes. This was followed in May of 2000, by the Shuttle Endeavor, whose crew performed maintenance tasks and delivered supplies in preparation for the arrival of the Zvezda Service Module.
The Russian-provided crew living quarters, Zvevda (Russian for Star) arrived on July 25, 2000, becoming the third major component of the International Space Station. Now, the ISS was nearly ready for its crew. In September of that same year, the shuttle Atlantis visited the International Space Station to deliver more supplies and prepare Zvezda for the International Space Station’s first permanent crew. October saw the historic 100th shuttle mission, as Discovery delivered the Z1 Truss, Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 and four Control Moment Gyros. Finally, on November 2nd, Expedition One, the first crew arrived to take their places aboard the International Space Station.
As the first crew closed out the twentieth century aboard the International Space Station, the final shuttle mission of the century arrived. The Endeavour’s five-member crew installed a set of solar arrays.
The first International Space Station mission of the twenty-first century, in February, 2001, had Atlantis and her crew deliver the US Destiny Laboratory Module, as well as moving the Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 from the end of Unity to the end of Destiny for future shuttle mission use.
Since then, there have been several other crews manning the International Space Station.
Additional modules installed include 2 Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules Leonardo and Raffaello, the International Space Station’s robot arm, called the Space Station Remote Manipulator, the International Space Station’s joint airlock, and finally, the Russian Docking Compartment, known as Pirs (Russian for pier).
Construction continues on this international project. When it is completed an international crew of up to seven will live and work in space between three and six months. Crew return vehicles will always be attached to the International Space Station to ensure the safe return of all crewmembers in the event of an emergency.