While the rest of the planet celebrated Christmas with their loved ones, astronauts on board the International Space Station did things quite differently – exchanging gifts and sharing a meal while floating in zero gravity some 250 miles above Earth.
Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle, the three NASA astronauts on the ISS, had the day off, according to NASA spokesperson Dan Huot. Since the crew are off-duty on the weekends, this is an extra-special long weekend where they can take time off from research work and conducting science experiments, Fox News reports.
The Expedition 54 crew still have gifts to open, even if Santa’s reindeer didn’t fly all the way out. The most recent trio to arrive at the ISS last December 19 had packages with them, and a Cygnus cargo spacecraft delivery in November also had some presents from the astronauts’ families.
Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov told reporters Dec. 16, “We have packages and gifts from our families and friends, and packages on board the ISS labeled to open on Dec. 25 for U.S. crewmembers and Dec. 31 for us from Russia.” Shkaplerov launched with Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai and Tingle. Alexander Misurkin, a fellow Russian cosmonaut, was one of the three already aboard.
There’s even one small artificial Christmas tree on the station. Shkaplerov said,
We [already] have a Christmas tree aboard, and there is a new Christmas tree arriving soon.
But since there’s no gravity at the ISS, the gifts won’t exactly be “under” the tree. Vande Hei even tweeted a photo of him floating abut wearing a Santa hat, with stuffed stockings around.
After opening the gifts, the astronauts shared a special holiday meal, though their menu was not disclosed. They did, however, enjoy a special screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which is somehow appropriate for a space station. Vande Hei tweeted, “Space Station movie night, complete with ‘bungee cord chairs,’ drink bags, and a science fiction flick!”