For the International Space Station, Leroy Chiao was, in a sense, there before the beginning.
In October 2000, he was one of seven astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery, which brought pieces of the nascent space station to orbit. Construction had begun a couple of years earlier. But no one was living there yet.
Much of the work on Dr. Chiao’s flight was done outside the space station, during spacewalks. But the astronauts also got to go inside briefly.
“It had that new-car smell,” Dr. Chiao recalled.
It was a runt of a space station then. The habitable portion consisted of just three modules, not the 16 orbiting today. But it was ready for people to move in.