15 years of the International Space Station

BY newsdesk  November 20, 2013 at 7:13 PM EDT

Photo by NASA

It speeds around the Earth at 17,100 mph and clocks an orbit time of just under 93 minutes. It’s gotten magazine spreads dedicated to its future. It’s even hosted a performance of “Space Oddity.” And it’s now 15 years old.

The International Space Station first launched into orbit on November 20, 1998 in the form of the Russian-built Zarya module. Compared to the 239 by 356 foot station today, the lone section only measured 41 feet in length and 13 feet wide, with solar arrays jutting from the sides. It would receive its first growth spurt two weeks later with the arrival of Unity, the first of the United States’ additions. It’s come a long way since.

The station is visible from Earth with the naked eye. So if you see it while stargazing tonight, be sure to wish it a happy 15th birthday.