International Space Station Crew

Since the first International Space Station (ISS) crew arrived at the Station on November 2, 2000, the ISS has been permanently inhabited by rotating crews who stay for three to six months. In addition to operating and maintaining the ISS, crews also install new modules and perform various experiments.

In 2009, the ISS began accommodating permanent crews of up to six people. This expanded crew capacity will significantly increase the number ofexperiments conducted on board the Station, maximizing the scientific and research potential of the ISS. The Space Station is scheduled for completion by 2011.

There are two categories of crewmembers who visit the ISS:

  • Professional astronauts/cosmonauts have completed the official selection and training process, and are currently employed at the crew office of any of the ISS partner space agencies. Because Canadian astronauts are selected and trained by the Canadian Space Agency, they are eligible to embark upon missions to the ISS as professional astronauts.
  • Space-flight participants are individuals (for example, astronauts from non-partner space agencies, private citizens, tourists, etc.) who are sponsored to travel to the ISS by one or more ISS partners. They are not professional astronauts affiliated with any of the ISS partner agencies.

Living together in space

Expedition crewmembers make up the main crew of the ISS and stay on the Space Station for the duration of an expedition (three to six months). Because each expedition crew must have one commander and at least two flight engineers, space-flight participants may only be accepted to join the expedition after these positions have been filled.

Professional astronauts may be assigned as crew commanders, pilots, flight engineers, or Station scientists, while space-flight participants only fly as visiting scientists, commercial users, or tourists.

Over the years, many nations have been represented on board the ISS. Americans and Russians are by far the most common occupants, but Canadian, Japanese and European astronauts (some of whom are from France, Germany and Italy) have frequently visited or lived on the ISS. The Station, however, has not limited its visitors to only the Space Station partner nations, as explorers from South Korea, Malaysia, and South Africa have also been on board, making the ISS a truly international and all-inclusive endeavour.

Canada's first long-duration mission, Expedition 20/21, began May 27, 2009 when Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Bob Thirsk launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan to the ISS. His expedition concluded six-months later on December 1. Dr.Thirsk represented Canada on board the Station as a flight engineer. He was responsible for a number of scientific and technical duties, maintenance tasks and public outreach initiatives. Several new firsts were set during this mission. These include a record for time spent in space by a Canadian astronaut (188 days), the first-ever capture of a free-flying vehicle (gripped using Canadarm2), and the first meeting of two Canadians in orbit. In fact, this happened twice during Expedition 20/21, once with Bob and Julie Payette, and later with Bob and Guy Laliberté. During Bob's time on the Station, all major ISS international partners were represented together for the first time.

Canada's second long-duration mission, Expedition 34/35, is scheduled for December, 2012. CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield will be the Commander during the second-half of the mission – a first for a Canadian. Like Bob Thirsk who preceded him, he will be launching from Baikonur Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to live and work on board the ISS for six months. Chris will work closely with his Russian and American colleagues and as commander, will be instrumental in coordinating activities among crewmembers, ensuring that the ISS' high standard of cooperation is maintained.

Julie Payette glides through ESA's Columbus Laboratory

2009-07-17 - CSA Astronaut Julie Payette glides through ESA's Columbus Laboratory of the International Space Station during Shuttle Mission STS-127. (Credit: NASA)

ISS

2009-09-08 - The International Space Station (ISS) from the vantage point of a Space Shuttle Discovery observer. At this stage, the ISS is near completion. Visible is Canadarm2, "waving" from the top-most perch of the Station. (Credit: NASA)

CSA Astronaut Dave Williams performs a spacewalk during Shuttle Mission  STS-118

2007-08-11 - CSA Astronaut Dave Williams performs a spacewalk during Shuttle Mission STS-118. (Credit: NASA)

Guy Laliberte, Canada's first private space explorer

2009-10-06 - Guy Laliberte, Canada's first private space explorer, holds up an orange clown nose inside the Zvezda module of the ISS.  Guy's "Poetic Social Mission," an 11-day excursion that lasted from September 30 to October 10, 2009, brought attention to water resource issues on Earth. Guy concluded his stay by hosting a 120-minute webcast. Numerous artists and other exceptional people contributed their talents to the show, including U2, Shakira, Dr. David Suzuki and the CSA's own Julie Payette. (Credit: NASA)

ISS

2009-07-27 - During Expedition 20, all five ISS partner nations were represented together on board the Station for the first time. Pictured here, from left to right, is Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Roman Romanenko; Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata; European astronaut Frank De Winne; NASA astronaut Michael Barratt; Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Bob Thirsk; NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. (Credit: NASA)