Nearly 18 years since its launch, the International Space Station (ISS) has made its 100,000th orbit around the Earth.
The space station has now traveled over 2.6 billion miles, nearly the distance from Earth to Neptune. That's equivalent to ten round trips from Mars to Earth.
"This is a significant milestone and is a tribute to this international partnership, made up of the European Space Agency, of Russia, Canada, Japan, and the United States," NASA astronaut Jeff Williams said in a video tribute recorded aboard the orbiting lab ahead of the landmark orbit.
The craft travels at a speed of 18,000 miles per hour and takes about 90 minutes to complete one orbit, meaning that astronauts living on board experience 16 sunrises and sunsets per day.
Though launched in 1998, the first astronauts, one American and two Russians, did not enter the space station until 2000. Since then, more than 220 people have lived or visited there, including 189 men, according to NASA.
The ISS serves as a stepping stone to future human exploration of further destinations. NASA and its partners have conducted 1,900 experiments aboard the space station to date.
Last April the scientists attached an inflatable room to the station. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the astronauts began testing Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, “a 3,086-pound pod made of layers of fabric and Kevlar-like material that one day might be able to house astronauts during deep-space missions, and possibly even space tourists on sightseeing trips.”
Scientists are currently attempting to grow fruits and vegetables in space, mostly to provide food for humans interested in space exploration. It currently costs about $10,000 to send one pound of food from Earth to the space station.
There are now six people aboard the ISS: Mr. Williams and Tim Kopra from NASA; Russian cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko, Oleg Skripochka, and Alexey Ovchinin, and the first British astronaut, Tim Peake. Mr. Kopra recently replaced Scott Kelly as the ISS commander when the latter stepped down after spending a year in space.