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 Space.com 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.
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.)