Before the dawn of the 21st Century, human life in space was the stuff of science fiction, but 15 years ago, almost to the day, fiction became reality.
On November 2, 2000, American Commander William Shepherd and Russian astronauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev docked at the ISS, after a two-day journey aboard the Soyuz TM-31. They only stayed for four and a half months, but kicked off a decade and a half of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station.
The age of space habitation has seen many firsts for humankind, including the first Olympic torch in space, the first live concert broadcast from space, and the consumption of the first space-grown lettuce.
In honour of 15 years “on station,” here’s a look at some of the Canadians who have helped shape this exciting chapter in human history:
Payette was part of the mission that performed the first manual docking of the Space Shuttle Discovery to the ISS in the spring of 1999. Her primary responsibility during that mission was to operate the Canadarm from within the space station, making her the first Canadian to board the Space Station and participate in an ISS assembly mission.
She returned to the ISS in 2009 when Dr. Robert Thirsk was in the middle of his record-breaking stay aboard the station, marking the first time two Canadians were in space at the same time.
Hadfield was already a space veteran when he delivered Canadarm2 to the ISS in 2001. During that mission, he became the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk. In 2013, Hadfield became the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station and an internationally beloved celebrity thanks to his fascinating dispatches on social media.
Williams was a mission specialist on STS-118, which activated a new system for docked space shuttles to draw power from the ISS in August 2007. During that mission, Williams took part in three of four spacewalks — the most ever performed in a single mission. He spent a total of 17 hours and 47 minutes outside, a Canadian record.
Dr. Robert Thirsk
In 2009, Thirsk launched aboard Soyuz TMA-15, marking the start of Canada's first long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station. During that mission, Thirsk set a new record for time spent in space by a Canadian: 188 days. Julie Payette visited the station aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour for two weeks during Thirsk’s stay; it was the first time two Canadians met in orbit.