Zarya launches on a Proton rocket
Zarya, the first component of the International Space Station, launched at 1:40 a.m. EST on November 20, 1998, from Kazahkstan.
Credit: NASA

The module that started it all, Zarya, also known as

The International Space Station celebrates its 15th birthday today (Nov. 20), marking the day in 1998 when a Russian rocket lifted the first piece of what is now the largest manmade structure ever built in space.

The launch of the module named Zarya (“Sunrise” in Russian) kicked off an unprecedented international undertaking to build the astronaut outpost one piece at a time. Five different space agencies representing 15 countries contributed to the project, and by 2000, rotating crews of spaceflyers were — and still are — living on the $100 billion International Space Station.

via International Space Station Celebrates 15th Birthday in Orbit |