This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.

Science & Tech

Meet the Canadian astronauts who have lived aboard the ISS

  • Nov 02, 2015
  • 516 words
  • 3 minutes
Expand Image

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:

Julie Payette

Expand Image
Payette looks through an overhead window while operating the Canadarm controls on the aft flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. (Photo: NASA Shuttle Mission Imagery/Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Chris Hadfield

Expand Image
Chris Hadfield juggles tomatoes aboard the ISS. (Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Dave Williams

Expand Image
Dave Williams (second from right) with the crew of mission STS-118. (Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

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

Expand Image
Robert Thirsk works in the Destiny Lab aboard the ISS. (Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Meet the rest of Canada’s astronauts here.


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques in spacewalk training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas.

Science & Tech

How to train your astronaut

From enduring extreme isolation and psychological strain to operating high-tech robotics and undergoing an intense physical fitness regimen, here’s a glimpse at what it takes to head to space

  • 1370 words
  • 6 minutes


Excerpt from Canadarm and Collaboration: How Canada’s Astronauts and Space Robots Explore New Worlds

With interviews from Chris Hadfield, Marc Garneau, Roberta Bondar, and more, Canadarm and Collaboration is the tale of Canada’s involvement in international space exploration from the 1960s to the present day

  • 1488 words
  • 6 minutes

People & Culture

Astronauts attending the RCGS Fellows Dinner

This year’s roster of Gold Medal recipients at The Royal…

  • 923 words
  • 4 minutes
Canadian astronauts pose inside the Living in Space Exhibition


Canadian Space Agency astronaut profiles

The men and women that have become part of Canada’s space team

  • 1067 words
  • 5 minutes