Astronauts on the International Space Station are sending Christmas tidings to the people of Earth with a message of hope in a year challenged by a global pandemic.
All seven members of the station's Expedition 64 crew are taking the day off in orbit to relax and likely make calls to friends and family, but five of them beamed home some special videos for everyone on Earth. Their message: Resilience, based on the name of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that launched four of the astronauts to the station last month.
"We selected that name in tribute to people around the world and to the teams that help make our mission possible during a year that changed all our lives," NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins said in one holiday video. "We'd also like to remember everyone we've lost this year."
Hopkins launched to the station on Nov. 16 on the Crew Dragon Resilience with fellow NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Soichi Noguchi. They joined another NASA astronaut, Kate Rubins, already on the station with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.
"There couldn't be a more fitting name to describe 2020," Glover said. "The resilience of the human spirit is something that we can truly celebrate in this special season."
The Exp 64 astronauts talk about the holidays far from family and friends, they show off some of their presents and issue a decorating challenge to Mission Control at @NASA_Johnson. pic.twitter.com/sNcssj6EioDecember 24, 2020
Walker said that as she reflects on Earth from her vantage point above, it's clear how connected everyone on (and off) the planet truly are. In a separate video, she recalled exactly what Christmas and the holidays mean to her.
"To me, it means the three 'Fs', family, friends and food," Walker said.
There will definitely be some festive food on the space station today. On Dec. 6, a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship delivered a fresh load of supplies to the station, including some Christmas treats for the crew.
"The crew is going to get some type of Christmasy food on orbit," Kenny Todd, NASA's deputy program manager for the space station, said at the time. "I don't think that will be any surprise to them, but anything more than that … I don't like to get out in front of Santa Claus."
One new item on the menu is some canned mackerel created by Japanese schoolgirls at Wakasa High School in Obama City, Japan, Noguchi said, holding up a can in one of the Christmas videos. The high school girls have spent years working on the food item and it was recently approved for astronauts in space, he added.
"This is a special gift from Wakasa High School," Noguchi said. "This is a small, small can of mackerel, but a giant leap for Japanese high school girls."
Rubins said that the space station crew has added a contest to their Christmas break. The astronauts have decked the halls of the International Space Station with Christmas decorations made with items they found around the spacecraft. They challenged NASA's Mission Control team at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to do the same, using only decorations in their Mission Control building.
"We'll see how that goes," Rubins said.
Back in Mission Control, NASA flight director Zebulon Scoville showed off a dazzling red and white Christmas sport coat and a flight console draped in bright garland and other decorations.
"I know you issued a challenge and let me just say, decorating Mission Control? Challenge accepted," Scoville said. "I may have to cut this coat up and make into something new later."
Glover showed off some fancy socks printed with photos of his family in one of the videos.
"My family on the ground is definitely in my thoughts and in my prayers, and on my socks," Glover said. "But that also makes me think about all the folks who aren't able to spend the holidays with their families."
Glover sent a special thanks to military and health services members who are working hard to keep the public safe over the holidays.
"We hope that you take the opportunity to celebrate the holidays before we turn the calendar to a fresh year with renewed hope and a spirit for the future," Noguchi said.
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