BY ANY standard, it is a great collective achievement that the International Space Station (ISS) has completed twenty years of hosting man. Several countries and their space agencies have made this feat possible through international cooperation of the highest order. The ISS, thus, is a symbol of global collaboration in space research that has yielded many wonderful outcomes in diverse domains. In the process of the past twenty years, several records were created and bettered -- of longest stay in space, of growing green shoots in space, of knowing mysteries of the outer space and origin of the universe ...! There cannot be anything better in international scientific cooperation than such a successful experiment.
The ISS, thus, became a stage for human togetherness on one of the farthest frontiers of science. The poetry in the entire experiment, the human imagination involving the effort, and the actual human effort have been of a superlative variety, making the ISS one of the most rare scientific endeavours. It is not easy to imagine actually what those up there in the ISS have to face when they circle around the earth. On one side, they keep seeing the earthern globe, and on the other side they peer into a dark vastness whose dimensions nobody knows. They have space walks and conduct experiments, attached to the ISS with a tenuous cable, a prospect that can scare the most daring of person back on earth.
As all this goes on, the men and women in the ISS wait for visiting spacecrafts from various space agencies. These spacecrafts bring supplies including drinking water, including small merchandises whose detail we cannot even imagine. But then, there is one detail that may surprise most of us -- the astronauts derive drinking water from the urine they pass after purification.
The Americans on board are willing to drink that ‘water’, while the Russians need actual water from the earth, being brought to them by supply crafts at regular intervals. Various accounts are available of the life up there in the ISS. Each of those makes a great reading. But even in the cosy homes on earth, the readers get an occasional sense of scare about a possible accident that may bring the ISS in jeopardy. This sense of scare, however, has a poetic dimension as well: It connects all humans with a common bond that runs through our collective DNA. The ISS has made us aware of this beautiful reality!