A NASA Astronaut Just Pulled Off an Awesome Prank in Space

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson pops out of a cargo bag during a prank on the International Space Station on Feb. 13, 2017.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson pops out of a cargo bag during a prank on the International Space Station on Feb. 13, 2017. (Image credit: Peggy Whitson/Twitter/NASA)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson just pulled off a prank that's literally out of this world. 

Whitson, a veteran space traveler, is one of six people living and working on the International Space Station right now. And while astronauts are usually pretty busy in space, Whitson found time Monday (Feb. 13) to surprise her Russian crewmates with a gag you could only pull off in space. As you can see here, Whitson packed herself inside a cargo bag and enlisted two partners-in-prank (NASA's Shane Kimbrough and France's Thomas Pesquet) to surprise their Russian crewmates. [Fun in Zero G: Awesome Weightless Photos]

"They were quite surprised when I popped out!" Whitson wrote in a Twitter post.

The Russian members of the station's current Expedition 50 crew are Andrewy Borisenko, Sergey Ryzhikov and Oleg Novitskiy. I can only guess at what they thought when a seemingly innocent cargo bag floated into their module, only to have Whitson pop out.

Pesquet, a European Space Agency astronaut, apparently tried to climb in a cargo bag, too. But that didn't work out. 

"I tried ... I but I didn't fit!" Pesquet wrote on Twitter

This isn't the first time Whitson and her crewmates have had fun in space during their mission. To celebrate the Super Bowl earlier this month, they practiced some weightless tosses of their own ... using Whitson as the ball. 

And there was that time last month when Whitson decided to play with her space jello.

Whitson, Pesquet and Novitsky launched to the space station last November, joining Kimbrough (who commands Expedition 50 mission), Borisenko and Ryzhikov already onboard. Later this month, Kimbrough, Borisenko and Ryzhikov will return to Earth. At that time, Whitson will take command of the space station for the second time in her career — a first for a female astronaut. 

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.