It has been a three year gap since a Canadian was in space. The last time was on December 1st 2009 when Robert Thirsk returned from his six month stay on the International Space Station. Today Chris Hadfield launched to start a six month stint on the ISS. His trip will be the ninth time a Canadian will be on board the ISS and the 17th time a Canadian has been in space.
Chris Hadfield will be the second Canadian to live in space for six months and will become the first Canadian to command the ISS. He is also the second person who is not a Russian or American to command the ISS, the first was Belgian Frank De Winne in 2009. With the return of Chris Hadfield, Canada is also only the fourth country to have a second person stationed on the ISS.
It is amazing how little people in Canada seem to understand that Canada is one of the most advanced space faring countries in the world. Clearly the US and Russia are way ahead, but by almost any measure Canada is in the next tier with Japan, China, Germany and France.
Before his launch today, Canadians had spent a total of 360 days, 13 hours and 49 minutes in space. This means on Christmas Eve the total time for Canadians in space will have passed one year. Early in January Canada will pass the Netherlands and move into 7th in time in space. At the end of January we pass the UK, though they are only that high because four of the US astronauts is a dual citizen. At the end of February we pass France and finally in early May of 2013 Canada passes Germany for time in space and is the nation with the fourth longest time in space.
This is all that much more impressive when you realize that Canada has half the population of the next tier two space nation.
Total time of all Canadians in space as of December 18th 2012
Robert Thirsk 204d 18h 29m - 2 trips, STS-78 1996, ISS Expedition 21/21 2009
Marc Garneau 29d 2h 1m - 3 trips, STS-41-G 1984, STS-77 1996 and STS-97 2000
Dafydd Williams 28d 15h 47m - 2 trips, STS-90 1998, STS-118 August 2007
Julie Payette 25d 11h 58m - 2 trips, STS-96 1999, STS-127 2009
Steve MacLean 21d 16h 2m - 2 trips, STS-52 1992 , STS-115 2006
Chris Hadfield 20d 2h 2m - 2 trips, STS-74 1995, STS-100 2001 - visited Mir in 1995
Bjarni Tryggvason 11d 20h 28m - 1 trip STS-85 1997
Guy Laliberté 10d 21h 17m - 1 trip ISS Tourist 2009
Roberta Bondar 8d 1h 46m - 1 trip STS-42 1992
56.8% of the time Canadians have spent in space is Robert Thirsk and mainly because of his time on the ISS. Once Chris Hadfield ends his time in space about 75% of the time Canadians have been is space will be either Thirsk or Hadfield.
At this time there are no scheduled flights for any Canadians for the next several years. When there was the space shuttle, which could carry as many as seven people, there were more opportunities for larger groups of people to get into space and up to 13 people could be in space at once. As long as there is only the Soyuz there will be fewer people going to space each year. In three years time there should be at least one more human spaceflight option available.
By years the number of Canadians in space.
1984 - 1
1985-91 - 0
1992 - 2
1993-94 - 0
1995 - 1
1996 - 2
1997 - 1
1998 - 1
1999 - 1
2000 - 1
2001 - 1
2002-05 - 0
2006 - 1
2007 - 1
2009 - 3
2010-11 - 0
2012 - 1
Challenger explosion caused a break from early 1986 to 1988, this meant 22 flights were cancelled. Full crew details for all the flights had not been prepared so we only know of a a March 1987 flight for Steve MacLean.
The Columbia disaster in early 2003 caused an almost two and half year break in flights and 25 cancelled flights. Steve MacLean was scheduled to fly in May 2003, Daffyd Williams was scheduled for November 2003. Most of the cancelled flights had no crews assigned, but given that Canadians seemed to be on one of it would seem probable that three more Canadians would have flown.