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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – The International Space Station, partially designed and assembled in Alabama, celebrates its 15-year anniversary this month.

On Dec. 4, 1998, Node 1 — known as “Unity” — was launched into space aboard the shuttle Endeavour and two days later connected with the Russian-built Zarya (“Sunrise”). And on Dec. 10, the hatches of both nodes swung open for the first time.

The Unity node, a passageway connecting living and work areas of the ISS, was designed and assembled at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, home to many other historic projects. The Saturn V rocket was designed here and work on the future Space Launch System, a massive rocket to carry explorers to deep space, is under way.

Brian Mitchell, the NASA engineer who was the Marshall Space Flight Center lead for the Unity Node, said one of the most interesting things to him about the space station is that its size – about the length of an American football field, with the internal volume of a Boeing 747 — allows people all around the world to see it with their naked eye.

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