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:

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.

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 (ISS) during Shuttle Mission STS-127. (Credit: NASA)

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.


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)

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.

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

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

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.

Guy Laliberté, Canada's first private space explorer

2009-10-06 - Guy Laliberté, Canada's first private space explorer, holds up an orange clown nose inside the Zvezda module of the International Space Station (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)

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.


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 (CSA) Astronaut Bob Thirsk; NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. (Credit: NASA)

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