The International Space Station is nothing less than a man-made wonder of the world, multiple space agencies came together to work on this seemingly impossible task before the turn of the century and by 1998 the ISS’s assembly had began in low-Earth orbit. It was in November 2000 when the first batch of astronauts were sent up to actually live inside the International Space Station. It has been up there for 15 years, this month the ISS sees its 15th birthday.

For 15 years it has been orbiting the Earth, serving as a research facility and living quarters for the best of the best who are chosen to do something that’s literally out of this world. Typically each mission lasts six months and features members from the space agencies that collaborated on the project, Russia’s Roscosmos, America’s NASA, Europe’s ESA, Japan’s JAXA and Canada’s CSA have all been involved with this project.

Astronauts perform various tasks and experiments while they are up there, including but not limited to growing vegetables and 3D printing objects. They’re also required to carry out maintenance on the International Space Station which often requires them to conduct space walks, they actually leave the relative safety of the ISS to venture out in the vast space to work on the vehicle. It’s just amazing what they do up there.

The ISS hasn’t just been an expensive playground for the past decade and a half. Experiments conducted on the space station have revolved around performing long-distance medical ultrasounds, potentially creating new vaccines by studying accelerated cell growth and even the changes in astronauts bodies have provided a better understanding of muscle deterioration and heart conditions.

Sadly the space station’s future is as yet undecided, it’s funded through 2023, and it’s not yet known whether a new International Space Station will be built before or soon after this one is decommissioned. It was reported earlier this year that U.S. and Russia will work together on the next one but NASA was quick to decline that any such partnership had been cemented.

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