On This Day in Space: May 27, 2009: Expedition 20 doubles space station's crew size

On May 27, 2009, three astronauts launched to the International Space Station to complete the crew of Expedition 20. Expedition 20 was the first six-person crew to live and work at the space station for a long-duration stay. 

Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk and Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne lifted off on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Two days later, they arrived at the space station, where they were greeted by the Russian commander Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. For the first time in ISS history, the space station was packed to its full capacity of six crewmembers.

International Space Station Expedition 20 crew members give a "thumbs-up" signal as they pose in "star-burst" formation in the Harmony node. Pictured clockwise from the bottom (center) are Gennady Padalka, Tim Kopra, Robert Thirsk, Roman Romanenko, Frank De Winne and Michael Barratt. (Image credit: NASA)

Previous Expedition crews consisted of three people. But ever since Expedition 20, the space station has continued to support crews of six. 

Because the Soyuz capsules that ferry people to and from the ISS can only fit three people, only half of each Expedition crew can launch at a time. This is why it took two launches to get the full crew of Expedition 20 to the space station.

On This Day in Space Archive!

Still not enough space? Don't forget to check out our Space Image of the Day, and on the weekends our Best Space Photos and Top Space News Stories of the week.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos. 

  • The Exoplanets Channel
    Very interesting
  • Arc Light
    Just so you know, the X-15 took off from Edwards AFB under the wing of a B-52 & was airdropped over Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada. The flight to the altitude record wasn't planned, but the rocket engine burned for two seconds longer than expected. The test flight was scheduled to peak at 280,000', but actually reached 314, 750' due to the extra rocket burn time.
  • Fourth Root
    Misleading wording. Bob White did not set the world altitude record on July 17th, 1962. Four Astronauts and two cosmonauts had flown higher prior to his flight. One could say it was the highest manned flight of a winged craft. But that's not the wording that was used.
  • DrRaviSharma
    On this date in 1969, I was part of NASA Apollo Team

    Contributed to Experiments in orbit and on Surface of Moon (ALSEP) etc.also trained astronauts

    Studied containation on and ouside Spacecraft.

    The Moon gave me employment to work for 5 Years on exciting Human Space flight Programs Skylab, Planning of Space Station and Space Shuttle

    See My picture taken with Buzz Aldrin in 2009
    I received Apollo Achievement Award from NASA dated July 20, 1969.

    Thanks Hanneke Weitering for today's Historic post

    Dr. Ravi Sharma
  • Mergatroid
    "Allegedly, the moon turns green because of its close proximity to Uranus"

    I'm sorry about that. I hear they have been investigating x-rays from the same source. I had no idea. I'll get a doctor to check into it.

    Sorry everyone.