20 years of human presence on the International Space Station

David Saint-Jacques and the Bio-Monitor
Credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA
David Saint-Jacques et le biomoniteur
  • David Saint-Jacques et le biomoniteur
  • Fleuve Saint-Laurent – La Terre vue par David Saint-Jacques
  • Station spatiale internationale
20 years of human presence on the International Space Station

November 2, 2000 is an important milestone in the history of space exploration. It was on that date that a first crew began their stay on board the International Space Station (ISS). Since then the Station has been inhabited by women and men succeeding themselves without a break in order to further humankind’s knowledge.

An international collaboration

The International Space Station is the result of a partnership involving the space agencies of the U.S. (NASA), Canada (CSA), Russia (Roscosmos), Europe (ESA) and Japan (JAXA). Each partner gets a share of time for its scientific experiments or the presence of its astronauts in proportion to its financial contribution to the project.

The Canadian contribution

The Canadian Space Agency supplied the Station’s Mobile Servicing System, with the robotic arm and its “hand,” Dextre. Other important elements of the Station, like the communication antennas, are also Canadian-made. Although modest with respect to the overall budget, Canadian participation is essential to the Station’s assembly and its regular operations.

20 years of continuous occupation

There have been 34 women among the 241 people from 19 countries who’ve visited the International Space Station for a few days or lived on board for visits lasting several months. Some astronauts have been there as many as five times! Seven astronauts from the Canadian Space Agency have stayed on the ISS, whether for short but crucial assembly missions or for stays lasting a number of months in space. David Saint-Jacques is the last Canadian astronaut to travel to the Station. He spent 203 days in space between December 2018 and June 2019, amounting to the longest visit for a Canadian astronaut.

A house in space

The International Space Station has grown considerably in two decades. It now measures 109 meters in length by 73 meters wide and 30 meters high, which corresponds roughly to the size of five NHL rinks. Its mass of more than 420 metric tons makes it the largest artificial object placed in the Earth’s orbit. It can accommodate seven astronauts, who enjoy a panoramic window with an unbroken view of our planet, two toilets ‒ but no shower! The Station offers its occupants a living space of 388 cubic meters, the equivalent of a 150-square-meter apartment, but consisting exclusively of corridors!

A unique laboratory

For 20 years, the ISS’s unique environment has enabled scientists from 109 countries to carry out more than 2,700 experiments. What it studies is the effects of microgravity in areas as diverse as plant growth and the properties of materials. Over 35 experiments have been coordinated by the CSA, with a special focus on life science

A unique experience

Follow David St-Jacques and his colleagues for their stay on the International Space Station courtesy of the new film Space Explorers: The ISS Experience. An ultra-high-definition entertainment presented at the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan in 2021.

Canadian Space Agency astronauts who’ve spent time on the ISS

  • Julie Payette (STS-96, STS-127)
  • Marc Garneau (STS-97)
  • Chris Hadfield (STS-100, Expedition 34/35)
  • Steve MacLean (STS-115)
  • Dafydd Williams (STS-118)
  • Robert Thirsk (Expedition 20/21)
  • David Saint-Jacques (Expedition 58/59)

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