When every docking port of a space station is full, how will Santa come in?
"Unfortunately this year, all the docking ports are taken, so we're expecting that Santa will likely come through the airlock," NASA astronaut Josh Cassada said in the YouTube video (opens in new tab).
He didn't specify which airlock Santa will use, but presumably he is referring to the Quest airlock in the U.S. segment. Generally speaking, Santa prefers to enter through the Harmony module's zenith or space-facing port nearby there, Cassada noted, but there's a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft in that slot right now.
While waiting for Santa, the crew has the usual holiday feast planned in space. NASA astronaut Nicole Mann tossed the prepackaged meals to her crewmates: spicy green beans for Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, duck comfit for Frank Rubio, and broccoli for Cassada. Mann also showed off bread and cranberry sauce.
"One thing that I absolutely love about the holidays that I will miss up here is getting together with friends and family in the kitchen, and cooking a huge feast," Mann said. "It's a little chaotic. It's loud. Everybody's laughing and having fun, and you have great smells of cooking."
On New Year's Day, Wakata said, he plans to take a picture of the first sunrise of 2023. Pointing at a circular window behind him in the Japanese Kibo module, he said it would be "from this window over here."
The festive season comes after a very busy few days at the space station. Cassada and Rubio installed a new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) to augment the station's power supply, during a seven-hour spacewalk yesterday (Dec. 22). That spacewalk was delayed from Wednesday (Dec. 21) due to Russian orbital debris veering near the station.
Meanwhile, the Russian side of the space station is grappling with a Soyuz that lost its coolant dramatically last week. Roscosmos and NASA are continuing to evaluate options, which could mean bringing a new, empty Soyuz up in a few weeks to serve as a lifeboat for the three astronauts and cosmonauts who will need a ride home.
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).