On International Space Station, astronauts ring in New Year 2023 ahead of 2nd Christmas

four astronauts in front of space station windows wearing santa hats or holiday clothing
The Expedition 68 crew celebrates the 2022 holiday season from orbit. From left: Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann, and Frank Rubio, all from NASA, and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). (Image credit: NASA)

A new year is rising in space.

The seven Expedition 68 crew members celebrated the arrival of 2023 on the International Space Station in holiday style, including Santa hats, streamers and an adapted Orthodox Christmas tree ahead of the Russian celebration Jan. 6.

"Just like back home, we have a tradition here to put up a New Year tree and decorate the interior of the space station to celebrate the New Year. Today, we will show you how to do it under zero-gravity conditions," Russian cosmonaut
Sergey Prokopyev said in a video message from Roscosmos (opens in new tab) on Thursday (Dec. 29), with translation provided by state media provider TASS (opens in new tab).

Beside Prokopyev, Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Anna Kikina put up tiny ornaments and performed somersaults, all underneath a colored banner festooned with the words "New Year" in Cyrillic. Holiday cheer also spread to the U.S. side of the orbiting complex.

Related: No chimney? No problem! How Santa will visit astronauts on the International Space Station (video)

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In a NASA video uploaded last week, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata pledged to take an image of the first orbital sunrise of 2023 in one of the nearby modules in the ISS Kibo module, also provided by Japan.

The U.S. astronauts have been quiet on social media during the holiday season, but in the meantime, NASA uploaded a few photos on Flickr (opens in new tab) of the crew floating around the space station with Santa hats, stockings and holiday sweaters.

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, wearing a Santa hat, poses in front of the International Space Station cupola. (Image credit: NASA)

It will be a busy early 2023 for the Expedition 68 crew after Russia determines what to do with a Soyuz spacecraft that suddenly started leaking coolant on Dec. 15. There is no immediate danger to the space station crew, but it is unclear whether the Soyuz, called MS-22, can bear Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio back to Earth as planned.

Russia has pledged its "final decision" in January on whether to send up a rescue Soyuz (which would arrive no earlier than February) or to bring the three affected crew members home in Soyuz MS-22, according to reports. 

NASA has also reached out to SpaceX to see whether it would be possible to bring the trio home in a Crew Dragon spacecraft, if no other backup is available. Dragon Endeavour is docked to the space station right now, but is nominally full as it is scheduled to bring Mann, Cassada, Wakata and Kikina back to Earth.

The cause of the Soyuz leak has not yet been determined, but follow-up scans of the spacecraft revealed a hole in the radiator that might be from a micrometeoroid, or a piece of space debris too small to track. The three Soyuz MS-22 crew members might be without a lifeboat in the meantime, in case of emergency on the ISS.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, 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 (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace