This Fourth of July, Astronauts Have a Well-Deserved Day Off

This Fourth of July, astronauts finally have a day off.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will be celebrating and relaxing during the U.S. Independence Day holiday. European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will have to complete some science work in the morning, but after that, all six space station crewmembers will be off-duty, NASA spokesman Dan Huot told in an email. [Photos: NASA Rockets Launch on Fourth of July]

The crew doesn't have any specific plans for the holiday yet, Huot said. However, a free day is an infrequent luxury for the hardworking few in space, and they're sure to enjoy the time off.

The crew has had some time for fun recently, however. Both Gerst and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev have been sharing videos and photos of them watching the World Cup, and Artemyev and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev recently celebrated Russia's stunning upset over Spain this past Sunday (July 1).

On July Fourth in years past, astronauts have even looked for fireworks from the space station. In 2015, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said in a video interview that he hoped "to look down and see little specks of light over the United States on the evening of the Fourth of July."

And last year, NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer celebrated the holiday in space in style. They donned patriotic ensembles and had a whole photoshoot dedicated to American pride in microgravity.

NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson tried a variety of poses in their stars-and-stripes gear to celebrate Independence Day 2017. A moment of fun and relaxation in space. (Image credit: NASA/Twitter)

While Americans here on Earth may spend July Fourth at barbecues or the beach or watching fireworks, astronauts on the space station don't have a lot of downtime. They're just too busy, whether they're working one of the 200 science experiments on board, preparing for the next spacewalk or maintaining Earth's only orbiting laboratory. They won't be lighting fireworks on the space station, of course — in fact, fire is one of the biggest threats to astronaut safety on the space station. Still, the holiday will give the crew a chance to relax.

(Scientists on the ground, in the meantime, had some fun remotely by lighting up the station's Advanced Plant Habitat in red, white and blue.)

Happy #FourthOfJuly!

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.