It was 25 years ago to the day. On November 20, 1998, a proton rocket launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome. At its top, Zarya, the first module of the International Space Station (ISS). Since then, it has continued to grow, until it is the size of a football field and ensures a permanent human presence in space. An international presence, despite the geopolitical crises on the ground.
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In 1993, two years after the fall of the USSR, Russia and the United States signed a historic partnership, symbol of the new relationship that the two countries wish to maintain. Their collaboration will take place in orbit: it is the construction of a space station.
Very quickly, Europe, Canada and Japan joined the project, and the station became international. Its construction and operation are often considered the most complex undertaking ever undertaken by humanity. An outpost in space where astronauts can live permanently and do science.
Since the first module was sent 25 years ago, the bet has paid off. The ISS has been continuously inhabited since 2000, more than 270 astronauts of a twenty countries visited it. Currently, there are seven on board: a Japanese, a Dane, three Russians and two Americans.
A station caught up in geopolitical crises
Russians and Americans continue to talk to each other in space. Despite the war in Ukraine, astronauts and cosmonauts take off indifferently with the rockets of the two countries. The ISS thus remains one of the rare international cooperation projects, but it is coming to an end and should only last more than until 2030.
For the future, geopolitics regains its rights. The two countries have station projects to take over, but they will each go their separate ways.