Astronauts Ring in New Year From Space
Gianluca Masi of Italy photographed the partial lunar eclipse and blue moon (the second full moon of the month) on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 2009.
CREDIT: Gianluca Masi, Virtual Telescope Project, virtualtelescope.eu
As the people of Earth rang in the new year with parties and fireworks, five astronauts celebrated the dawn of 2010 in the only way they could ? locked inside a space station 220 miles above the planet.
NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, commander of the International Space Station, said New Year?s Day is a unique time of celebration for his multi-cultural crew, which is made up of two Americans, two Russians and a Japanese astronaut. Space station astronauts get eight holidays a year to take time off, often choosing days from each of the countries represented on their crew.
?Of course, that provides a great opportunity to get another glimpse into the different cultures and traditions among us,? Williams said in a New Year?s Day message. ?New Year?s Day also provides that glimpse into the traditions of others but is unique in that everybody represented on board celebrates it at home. It is a common holiday among all the crewmembers.?
Today, Williams and his crewmates plan to take some time off, chat with family members via a video link and snap photos. The astronauts likely had several chances Thursday night to photograph the New Year?s Eve moon, a blue moon that was visible in partial lunar eclipse from some parts of Earth.
?We currently have Russia, Japan, and the United States represented among the crew and will incorporate elements of everybody?s traditions into our day, particularly around the dinner table,? Williams said.
The astronauts also plan to take some time to reflect on the station?s last year and the coming work ahead. In 2010, NASA and its partner nations plan to complete construction the International Space Station by flying five final space shuttle missions. Construction of the $100 billion space station began in 1998.
Last year, the space station marked several milestones. Among them: reaching a full crew size of six astronauts, completing construction of the outpost?s giant Japanese laboratory (it has two modules, a small airlock, robotic arm and exterior experiment porch), the addition of a new Russian docking port, and the debut of an unmanned Japanese cargo ship.
?2010 promises to be equally challenging with completion of [space station] assembly and the transition to full utilization of this fascinating orbital outpost and unique laboratory,? Williams said. ?We are honored to have a small part in it.?
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