No Memorial Day Barbecue for Astronauts in Space

Astronauts in Space Will Make Time for Mother's Day
The Expedition 23 crew of the International Space Station poses for a group portrait in April 2010. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, commander, is at center. Also pictured clockwise (from bottom center) are Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Timothy "T.J." Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, all flight engineers. (Image credit: NASA)

While many Americans enjoy a long holiday weekend this Memorial Day, there will be no barbecues for astronauts on the International Space Station - and not just because open flames aren't allowed on the spacecraft.

The six people living on the space station have a busy weekend of packing ahead and will spend Memorial Day shifting command of the orbiting lab to its new Expedition 24 crew instead of relaxing, NASA officials said Friday.

That staff change is coming as station crewmembers Oleg Kotov of Russia, Timothy "T.J." Creamer of NASA, and astronaut Soichi Noguchi of Japan prepare to return to Earth on Tuesday, June 1.

"There are no formal plans to mark Memorial Day on the station this Monday, in part because the crew will be extremely busy preparing for the departure of Kotov, Creamer and Noguchi on the following day," NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries told

Memorial Day in space

But Humphries said the space station crew has not forgotten what Memorial Day is about in the United States.

"Some crew members have been remembering our troops every Friday by wearing red shirts. T.J. Creamer is continuing that tradition today," he added. Creamer is a U.S. Army colonel making his first long-duration spaceflight on the space station.

There won't be a Memorial Day cookout, though. Open flames aren't allowed on the space station because they pose a fire risk.

Kotov, a Russian cosmonaut, commanded the space station's Expedition 23 crew. He arrived at the space station in December on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that also ferried Creamer and Noguchi to the orbiting laboratory.

Since then, the spaceflyers have hosted three visiting NASA space shuttles that delivered vital spare parts and supplies, as well as a new NASA room, seven-window observation deck and Russian research module.

The Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft that brought Kotov and his two returning crewmates to the station is due to undock from the outpost Tuesday at 8:08 p.m. EDT (0008 Wednesday GMT) and land on the steppes of Kazakhstan in Central Asia at 11:27 p.m. EDT (0327 GMT).

Ready for home

This month has been a frantic marathon of activity for the space station's crew.

The astronauts and cosmonauts discarded an unmanned cargo ship, moved a Soyuz vehicle to a new docking port to make way for a $200 million Russian compartment called Rassvet ("Dawn" in Russian). That new space room was delivered by NASA's shuttle Atlantis, which launched to the station on May 14 and returned to Earth this week to wrap up its last planned flight.

On Monday night at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 Tuesday GMT), Kotov will officially hand control of the space station over to fellow cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, who will lead the outpost's new Expedition 24 crew.

Skvortsov arrived at the space station in early April with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson. The trio of spaceflyers will remain behind to await the arrival of three new crewmembers slated to launch from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 15.

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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.