Monday will mark two decades that astronauts have lived on the International Space Station.
The odyssey began with American Bill Shepherd and Russians Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. They took off from Kazakhstan on Oct. 31, 2000 and arrived at the space station two days later.
The early version of the space station featured three small, overheated rooms. Now the space station is almost as long as a football field, the Associated Press reports. It boasts an acre of solar panels and three high-tech labs in addition to three toilets, six sleeping compartments and 12 rooms.
“It’s 500 tons of stuff zooming around in space, most of which never touched each other until it got up there and bolted up,” Shepherd told the AP. “And it’s all run for 20 years with almost no big problems.”
It flies more than 250 miles above the Earth at over 17,000 mph. It played host to the first all-female spacewalk in 2019. And over the course of 20 years, more than 240 people from 19 nations have visited the station.
In fact, nowadays, the AP reports, the astronauts’ biggest concern is not geopolitics but the mounting threat from space debris. In the last year alone, the station has had to evade debris three times.
Most of the astronauts do six-month stints on the space station. But some have spent nearly a year up there.
The station’s current occupants are one American and two Russians. They told the AP they’ll enjoy a special dinner on Monday, drink in the sight of the Earth and honor all the crews who preceded them.
“Probably we’ll be celebrating this day by hard work,” Sergei Kud-Sverchkov told the AP Friday from orbit.