ISS: mankind's outpost in space
Some 400 kilometers above the earth's atmosphere is where it makes its waves: The International Space Station, a flying mix of laboratories where up to six astronauts live and conduct research into deep space all year round.
The initial idea for the station was conceived back in the 1960s. Long before the Moon landing (1969), NASA had its sights set on creating an outpost for up to 20 researchers.
The ISS was launched in 1998, and the first astronauts boarded in 2000. Initially, it was intended to be managed by the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency (ESA). Today, it is truly an international project, hosting astronauts from just about every continent.
It remains the largest man-made object in the earth's orbit.
The original plan was to have the initial partner countries cover maintenance of the ISS until 2020. Last month, Russia announced that it would be staying on as international partner until 2024, after which it wants to launch its own space station with Roskosmos.
It has yet to be decided what will happen with the ISS after that: if the station is no longer needed, it will most likely be burned in the earth's atmosphere over the South Pacific.