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The International Space Station just turned 15 years old

Space Station
Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock
Fifteen years ago, the iPhone didn’t exist, YouTube hadn’t come around, and Justin Bieber was just another 6-year-old in Canada, but the International Space Station was already in orbit. On Monday, NASA and the ISS celebrated 15 years worth of humans in space, with representation by over 200 people from 15 countries taking their turn in the great beyond. While the station wasn’t officially completed until 2011, this certainly hasn’t stopped astronauts from inhabiting the home away from home for the last decade and a half.

Since 2000, the ISS has seen 26,500 meals served, 1,760 experiments performed, 189 spacewalks executed, and 5,478 days of continuous human habitation in outer space. In honor of the momentous occasion, NASA released a video all about the station, which includes a few delightful pieces of trivia (and is also set to some very catchy banjo music, perhaps a nod to NASA’s Texas roots). The whole structure is about the size of a football field and weighs about 1 million pounds, has two toilets (but no bath), and has also been upgraded from three to 13 rooms in its 15 years of existence.

With an orbiting speed of approximately 5 miles per second, the ISS has now made 87,600 revolutions of planet Earth, and is expected to make just a few more — until the ISS is slated to shutter in 2024, at least. And scientists say that the 15 years of history seen by the space station has been instrumental to propelling our future — many experiments, like those that require the absence of gravity or the vacuum and radiation of space, would’ve simply been impossible without the great orbiting structure. And even finding new ways to get into space have often relied upon the ISS. As the Washington Post notes, the station has provided “a training ground for future missions to cast us farther away from home.”

It’s hard to imagine that we’ve already spent 15 years in space, but more difficult still would be to predict how much further we’ll go in the next decade and a half. So thanks, NASA — here’s to 2030.

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