Astronauts celebrated 15 years of circling the Earth aboard the International Space Station Monday, a new milestone for an orbiting space lab that some say deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
With operations expected to last another decade, the world’s space agencies are now looking to the outpost to provide key data on how future space pioneers may withstand the rigors of venturing further, perhaps even to Mars.
“We do a lot of experiments up here, but I think the most important experiment is the space station as an orbiting vehicle that keeps humans alive in space for long periods of time,” said NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, during a live press conference with the station’s crew to mark 15 years of continuous habitation.
Along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, Kelly is spending one year at the ISS so scientists can study the effects of long-term spaceflight on the body and mind.
Any trip to Mars would likely last years, raising the issue of harmful radiation. But it could also help scientists understand how to nourish astronauts for long periods and how to maintain healthy crew psychology.
“The space station really is a bridge,” US astronaut Kjell Lindgren told the media conference. “It is a test bed for the technologies we need to develop and understand in order to have a successful trip to Mars.”
– Space pioneers –
The ISS was just a two-module unit when the first crew to inhabit the research laboratory project arrived on Nov. 2, 2000.
They were American astronaut Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko.
Since then, a rotating cast of more than 220 of the world’s elite astronauts have lived and worked at the ISS, which includes 16 participating nations and is led by the United States and Russia.
Modules were added over time and today the football-stadium-sized outfit represents about $100 billion in investment and provides as much living space as a six-bedroom house.
Traveling at an altitude of about 250 miles (400 kilometers) and a speed of about 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour, the space station circles the Earth once every 90 minutes.
Typically, six crew at a time eat, sleep and float around in the microgravity environment, working 35 hours per week on a host of science projects for a mission duration of about six months.
After one crew of three astronauts departs, three replacements blast off aboard a Russian Soyuz spaceship, now the only mode of transport to and from the ISS after the US space shuttle program was retired in 2011.
– Peace Prize? –
John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, called the 15th anniversary an “incredible achievement,” and said “the international partnership that built and maintains the station is a shining example, moreover, of what humanity can accomplish when we work together in peace.”
In the past, NASA administrator Charles Bolden has said the project is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Asked about that assertion, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, who also took part in Monday’s news conference, said Bolden is “100 percent right.”
“People on the ground sometimes fail to hear each other, to see each other. Here in space, this is impossible,” Kononenko said through a translator.
“Everyone is important here and the success of the program — and sometimes even life — depends on what each and every one of us does.”
The six crewmen currently living in space planned to mark the anniversary with a communal dinner and some reflection, said Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui.
“We are going to have a meal together,” he said.
“And also we would like to talk about the future.”
Brian Williams compares Corey Lewandowski’s opening statement to the North Korean news lady
MSNBC host Brian Williams on Tuesday noted the similarities between former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and North Korean news anchor Ri Chun Hee.
"Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager who is now considering a Senate run in New Hampshire, testified before the House Judiciary Committee today," Williams reported. "It is likely his North Korean anchorwoman-quality opening remarks were meant were one viewer (Donald Trump)."
Ri, who has earned the nickname "Pink Lady," is known for her enthusiastic reading of government-approved news.
Watch the video below from MSNBC.
‘Train-wreck of a witness’: Analysts nail ‘obstructive’ Corey Lewandowski for proving the Democrats’ case
Political commentator Catherine Rampell disagreed with New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that the Democrats faltered during the hearing with Corey Lewandowski Tuesday. Former state and federal prosecutor Elie Honig called Lewandowski a "train-wreck of a witness."
She explained that Democrats had an extremely low bar: they had to prove Trump obstructed justice and that Corey Lewandowski gave one of the examples of such obstructions. In that sense, Rampell said they accomplished their goals.
"I don’t think this was a great day for Corey Lewandowski," she began. "This is a guy who went on TV and announced to the world -- apparently at the same time he is also trying to fundraise for Senate -- that he lies most of the time. Except when he's under oath."
WATCH: Ana Navarro keeps shouting down Trump booster — even as CNN host cuts to commercial
President Donald Trump cheered on his top Hispanic advisor Steve Cortes, who appeared before a New Mexico audience. Trump asked Cortes which he loved more, Hispanics or America, which prompted CNN's Ana Navarro to blast the president for racism. Meanwhile, Trump's latest CNN shill cried "political correctness."
"Look, I suspect he didn't want to offend Steve Cortes and I suspect Steve Cortes was not offended," Navarro said. "But really what a stupid thing to say. Right? To somehow ask the question about whether you love the country more than you love Hispanics -- they are one and the same."