History: Global Effort Building Space Station
Once the two space station elements were docked, mission specialists Jerry Ross, left, and Jim Newman conducted three spacewalks to connect power and data cables between the Unity and Zarya. In this image they were photographed working together on the third spacewalk on Dec. 12, 1998.
The first elements of the International Space Station now have been in orbit for almost 19 years. Assembly of the largest spacecraft ever built was a global, cooperative effort and began with the STS-88 space shuttle mission in December 1998. The orbiting outpost now serves as a unique laboratory where teams from around the world are performing scientific research only possible in the microgravity environment of space. Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, a former space shuttle astronaut, commanded the flight that began one of history’s landmark engineering achievements.
„STS-88 was a phenomenal mission,“ said Cabana. „It was just perfect from start to finish. Everything just flowed, and it set the tone for the whole space station assembly.“ The first module placed in orbit was the functional cargo block, named „Zarya“ — Russian for dawn. It was built by Boeing and the Russian Federal Space Agency and launched by a Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 20, 1998.
Two weeks later, on Dec. 4, 1998, the space shuttle Endeavour lifted off from Kennedy with Cabana, pilot Rick Sturckow, mission specialists Nancy Currie, Jerry Ross, Jim Newman and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev. They carried with them the first American-launched station element, node 1, called „Unity“. The 12-day STS-88 shuttle flight was highlighted by connecting Unity to Zarya. „We had to take Unity out of the payload bay and attach it to the orbiter docking station,“ Cabana said. „Then, we had to rendezvous with the Russian functional cargo block.“
Next, came one of the most challenging portions of the operation. Mission specialist Nancy Currie used the remote manipulator system robotic arm to capture the Zarya module even though the view for Endeavour’s crew was partially obscured by the large Unity module. (…)
Text by Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.