International Crew Arrives at Space Station for the Holidays

Sorry, Santa — these space travelers won't be home for Christmas.

A Russian cosmonaut and astronauts from the United States and Japan arrived at the International Space Station today (Dec. 19) to kick off a six-month space mission. And in the true Christmas spirit, they brought gifts. [Holidays in Space: An Astronaut Photo Album]

Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai docked their Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft at the station at 3:39 a.m. EST (0839 GMT) as both craft sailed high over the "boot" of Italy, NASA officials said. The trio joined three other crewmembers already aboard — Americans Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, and Russian Alexander Misurkin — to round out the station's Expedition 54 crew.

The International Space Station's full Expedition 54 crew speaks to family members and mission officials from the Zvezda control module after the arrival of NASA astronaut Scott Tingle (bottom left), cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (bottom center) and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai (bottom right) on Dec. 19, 2017. Also pictured are: NASA astronauts Joe Acaba (top left), cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin (top center) and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. (Image credit: NASA TV)

One thing is certain: It's going to be a festive time in space in the days ahead.

"We [already] have a Christmas tree aboard, and there is a new Christmas tree arriving soon," Shkaplerov told reporters Saturday (Dec. 16), one day before he, Tingle and Kanai launched into space from Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan. "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."

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency arrives at the International Space Station on Dec. 19, 2017, just in time for the holidays. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Shkaplerov is making his third spaceflight on this mission, while Tingle and Kanai are on their first flight. The three men will serve as part of the Expedition 54 crew through February, then stay on as the Expedition 55 crew after Acaba, Vande Hei and Misurkin return to Earth.

Shkaplerov, Tingle and Kanai will return to Earth in June, NASA officials have said. 

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of 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's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, 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 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.