How do astronauts in space celebrate holidays and big moments?
On Aug. 30, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur marked another birthday. But her party lacked one critical component, gravity, for McArthur celebrated while living on board the International Space Station. Along with her crew, she will be in orbit for other upcoming celebratory events and holidays such as Halloween, when SpaceX's Crew-3 mission will launch to the station.
"I did get to celebrate a birthday up here, which was pretty special," McArthur told Space.com during a live call to the station on Oct. 21 that also included NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. "It's hard to be away from home from your loved ones on a special day like that, but we make it fun together."
"We actually had a cargo vehicle arrive the very same day, so it did feel like I got quite a nice present for my birthday," McArthur said. "We did have a little dinner party with all of the crew members together. Everybody had brought decorations, there were balloons and I had the party hat and all kinds of special foods and gifts from my crewmates. I really was made to feel very special that day."
What a great birthday dinner with my Expedition 65 crew mates! My #SpaceBrothers went all out: quesadillas and tortilla-pizzas with real cheese! Cookie decorating! Cake with chocolate “candles”! We haven’t unpacked the ice cream yet, so I guess that means a 2nd party? 🌮🍕🎂 pic.twitter.com/h0D85fz6eiAugust 30, 2021
Regarding upcoming holidays, "we'll come up with something for Halloween," she added. "I'm not sure yet what exactly that will be, but it is fun … We kind of take any cause to celebrate, and every Saturday it seems like we're celebrating somebody's 300th day in space or a year in space or something like that. So that is something that we love to do, and it's an important part of our social life."
McArthur, who launched on April 23 with SpaceX's Crew-2 mission, and the rest of the space station crew will have some added excitement this Halloween — the Crew-3 launch. That mission is expected to launch at 2:21 a.m. EDT (0721 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and dock with the station the next day.
McArthur and the rest of the Crew-2 astronauts will continue to live on the station for a short while after the new batch of astronauts arrives, helping the new crew adjust and transition to life on the station. The Crew-2 quartet will depart for Earth in early to mid-November.
While space celebrations can be a ton of fun, McArthur did share that her son has made a special request that she and her husband stay on Earth at least through next summer. McArthur is married to fellow NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, who flew to the space station last year on Demo-2, a crewed SpaceX test flight.
"My son has basically put his foot down and said, 'You know what, Mommy? No one's going to space next summer,'" she said. "He's had both parents traveling to space in the last year, and I think he's about done with that."
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Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com 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.