Charles Fishman writes a terrific piece for The Atlantic on the International Space Station; its significance culturally, scientifically and politically. His story covers the challenges and successes of daily life for Station astronauts, and the future of the station.
Spaceflight has faded from American consciousness even as our performance in space has reached a new level of accomplishment. In the past decade, America has become a truly, permanently spacefaring nation. All day, every day, half a dozen men and women, including two Americans, are living and working in orbit, and have been since November 2000. Mission Control in Houston literally never sleeps now, and in one corner of a huge video screen there, a counter ticks the days and hours the Space Station has been continuously staffed. The number is rounding past 5,200 days.
Its a little strange when you think about it: Just about every American ninth-grader has never lived a moment without astronauts soaring overhead, living in space. But chances are, most ninth-graders dont know the name of a single active astronautmany dont even know that Americans are up there. Weve got a permanent space colony, inaugurated a year before the setting of the iconic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its a stunning achievement, and its completely ignored.