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 significantly increased the number of experiments conducted on board the Station, maximizing the scientific and research potential of the ISS.
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 (CSA), 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 CSA 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, took place from December 2012 to May 2013. CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield was the Commander during the second-half of the mission – a first for a Canadian. Like Bob Thirsk who preceded him, he launched from Baikonur Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to live and work on board the ISS for six months. Chris worked closely with his Russian and American colleagues and as commander, was instrumental in coordinating activities among crewmembers, ensuring that the ISS' high standard of cooperation is maintained.
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