"What a tremendous gift the administration has given us," Weaver said. "From a biased NASA standpoint, we've talked about going beyond lower Earth orbit and we've got a lot to learn... If we are going to do anything with deep space exploration, mature the commercial market and continue or space experiments, we need a healthy, viable and sustainable station. And we needed a longer horizon."
NASA is committed, Weaver said, to having the station serve it long-term exploration needs. The extension will enable NASA to continue its research, for instance, on microgravity's effects on the human body, along with the affects of living in space for a year or more.
Gerstenmaier noted that the space station's hardware is projected to last until at least 2028. In several more years, NASA will revisit the issue of how long to extend the station's mission.
The first crew to live aboard the space station launched on a Soyuz spacecraft on Oct. 31, 2000, as Expedition 1, and consisted of one NASA astronaut, Commander Bill Shepherd, and two Russian cosmonauts, Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko.
There have been people living and working on the orbiter ever since.
Over the years, astronauts have conducted more than 174 spacewalks , totaling about 1,100 hours — the equivalent of nearly 46 days — to build and maintain the station.
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