American & German Astronauts Make World Cup Bet in Space

Astronaut Steve Swanson performs a bicycle kick on the International Space Station
Space station astronauts play soccer in anticipation of a World Cup match between Germany and the United States on June 26, 2014. (Image credit: NASA)

The World Cup stakes just got a little higher for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

In anticipation of the United States vs. Germany match today (June 26), NASA astronauts Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman are taking part in a friendly wager with their fellow space station crewmember, German astronaut Alexander Gerst.

"If the U.S. wins, these guys are going to draw a little U.S. flag on my head, but I think if Germany wins these guys should have to shave their heads," Gerst said during a June 24 interview with ESPN. "Either way I’m looking forward to the game. It’s going to be fun." [See photos of Brazil's World Cup stadiums from space]

Germany and the U.S. will face off in Brazil today at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT). The two countries currently lead the tournament's so-called "Group of Death," so-named because the group includes some of the World Cup's most challenging competitors.

The winner of the match will win the group and move on in the month-long tournament, but the loser may or may not be eliminated, depending on what happens in the game between Ghana and Portugal. If the U.S. and Germany tie, both teams will move on to the next round.

“I hope we kick their butt a little bit, but I'm going to hope it’s going to be at the final game, not at this game on Thursday," Gerst told ESPN.

Gerst, Wiseman and Swanson have busy schedules on the station, but they are hoping to get the chance to watch the match live from the orbiting outpost.

The three crewmembers even made a World Cup video showing off their microgravity soccer skills in honor of the match up. They perform bicycle kicks, float through different parts of the space laboratory and show off their post-goal dances. Robonaut 2 — a humanoid robot built to help the astronauts with chores — also gets in on the action by waving its arms around.

Wiseman joked that his and Swanson's combined cheering from orbit could give the U.S. an advantage over Gerst's team in the matchup. "I believe we will win," Wiseman said. "It’s two against one up here, so I think the U.S. chances are pretty good."

The $100 billion International Space Station currently plays host to six crewmembers. Swanson, Wiseman and Gerst are joined by Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev and Maxim Suraev as part of the station's Expedition 40 crew.

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Miriam Kramer
Staff Writer

Miriam Kramer joined as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight.  Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.