World Cup 2019: Astronaut Cheers on US Women's Soccer Team from Space

NASA astronaut Anne McClain tweeted on June 11 to mark the women's World Cup and share images of the stadium she snapped as the International Space Station orbited overhead.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain tweeted on June 11 to mark the women's World Cup and share images of the stadium she snapped as the International Space Station orbited overhead. (Image credit: NASA)

Talk about nosebleed seats. A U.S. astronaut had the perfect view of the French stadium hosting the FIFA Women's World Cup — although the action may be a little bit hard to see from about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth's surface.

"Finally made it to a @FIFAWWC in person," Anne McClain, a member of Expedition 59, tweeted on Tuesday (June 11), along with two pictures showing the cloudy view beneath the International Space Station. Red circles carefully mark Reims, France, the location of the epic match. 

McClain added that she'll be watching the U.S. women's team defend their title from the space station — we presume using a computer or television, since even binoculars wouldn't pick up the action below. "Go #USA!" she added. (McClain was a member of the U.S. national rugby team before heading to space.)

Related: Watch Cosmonauts Play Soccer in Space for 2018 World Cup

The World Cup is often an occasion for space station crews to let loose on their usually busy schedules; crews are typically responsible for about 200 space experiments and the inevitable maintenance and repairs that come from living on an isolated laboratory.

Last year's men's World Cup was in Moscow, and the Russian cosmonauts on board the space station celebrated by playing microgravity soccer (or "football," as the Russians call it) near a large Russian flag. The cosmonauts festooned their play with kicks, spins and flips that even the top players on Earth can't do under the weight of gravity. Their soccer ball was the real deal — an official 2018 World Cup ball flown to space just for them. 

An epic international match also took place aboard the space station in 2014, when the American and German astronauts on board faced off with a tiny soccer ball, scoring "goals" on each other across a couple of space station modules. The crew made a bet as to who would win that year's World Cup Germany vs. United States match; Germany ended up carrying the day.

"If the U.S. wins, these guys are going to draw a little U.S. flag on my head, but I think if Germany wins these guys should have to shave their heads," German astronaut Alexander Gerst said during an interview with ESPN prior to the match. "Either way, I'm looking forward to the game. It's going to be fun."

True to their word, the two U.S. astronauts did shave their locks on video a few days later, matching Gerst's already bald appearance.

"Our condolences on your loss today for Steve [Swanson] and Reid [Wiseman]," someone from NASA's Mission Control in Houston radioed up to the station before the shaving. "Flight wanted to point out that bald is more aerodynamic when flying."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: