That's a negative on the fire: There will be no barbecuing on the International Space Station this Labor Day. But the orbiting lab's American crew will get a free day to relax and exercise after the excitement of welcoming three new teammates on Friday (Sept. 4).
"The three USOS [U.S. Operating Segment] crewmembers [Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren of NASA, and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency] will have the day off, with only their exercise on the schedule and some sample collection for Kelly for his Twins Study experiments," NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com in an email. Kelly's identical twin Mark, also an astronaut, has remained on the ground so scientists can track the duo to investigate the effects of spending a year in space.
Huot added that the four cosmonauts aboard the station have a light day scheduled as well, focusing on maintenance and talking with media, and that the two visiting crewmembers — Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency — will be working on experiments. The visitors will only be spending a week in space, so every moment of research time counts. [Watch: Blastoff! New Crew Launch Will Make It 9 on Space Station]
On Sept. 5, Cmdr. Gennady Padalka, of the Russian Space Agency, ceremonially transferred command to Kelly before Padalka's upcoming departure on the Soyuz craft. Fellow cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Mikhail Kornienko will stay onboard.
Even before the latest bunch arrived, more astronauts on the station meant a more varied mix of science and maintenance work: While the three cosmonauts went on a long spacewalk on Aug. 10, Kelly, Lindgren and Yui shared a bite of NASA's first space-grown produce. Now, with nine aboard, there's even more going on.
And the quarters will be bit tight — "a little more crowded than normal, but not anything we haven't had in the past," Huot said. "We had nine aboard back in 2013, when the Olympic torch was brought up to the station in advance of the Sochi Winter Olympics." It was an unlit torch, of course — fire not allowed.
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Sarah Lewin started writing for Space.com in June of 2015 as a Staff Writer and became Associate Editor in 2019 . Her work has been featured by Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Quanta Magazine, Wired, The Scientist, Science Friday and WGBH's Inside NOVA. Sarah has an MA from NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and an AB in mathematics from Brown University. When not writing, reading or thinking about space, Sarah enjoys musical theatre and mathematical papercraft. She is currently Assistant News Editor at Scientific American. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahExplains.