Astronauts on the International Space Station shared a festive message for people on Earth as they prepare to spend the holidays in orbit.
Expedition 66 crew members, including NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Mark Vande Hei, ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, will be celebrating Christmas aboard the orbiting lab this year. The crew shared a special holiday message on Twitter, explaining what Christmas means to each of them and reflecting on childhood memories spent with family.
"I always look forward to this time of year because even when I was away at the naval academy, that was always the time that I got to come home to see my family," Barron said in the holiday video while wearing festive red, light-up reindeer antlers on the orbiting lab.
Barron launched to the space station with SpaceX's Crew-3 mission on Nov. 10, along with Chari, Marshburn and Maurer. The crew docked with the orbiting lab on Nov. 11 for an approximate six-month stay. They are set to return to Earth no earlier than late April 2022.
In the holiday video, the crew also shared how it feels to spend their first Christmas in space.
"Even though we'll be up here this year, we have our space family," Barron said in the video. "So I think we're going to create some of our own traditions and we'll be able to talk to our family on the ground."
"There's a new family here in space, and so getting to spend Christmas as a family, with this family, is something I am looking forward to," Chari added in the video.
The space station orbits Earth about every 90 minutes, or approximately 16 times in a 24 hour day. Maurer, who serves as the Crew-3 mission specialist, joked that the crew will be celebrating Christmas 16 times while in orbit on Saturday, Dec. 25. Maurer also noted the importance of doing a special job while celebrating the holiday in space.
From mom's once-yearly double chocolate cookies to searching for the Christmas pickle, enjoying a special Christmas eve dinner, indulging a large Christmas morning breakfast and decorating the Christmas tree — the crew each shared their favorite holiday traditions. And since the crew will also be ringing in the New Year in space, they took a moment to reflect on the year ahead and science experiments to look forward to.
"We get to see the sun rise many times a day, so thinking about the fact that people are waking up to a new year each time we see that sunrise is going to be pretty cool," Chari said.
The video ended with each astronaut sending their love and a special message to their families on Earth.
"I'd like to let my family know that no matter where I am, no matter how far away I am from all of you, that my heart is always with you," Vande Hei said in the video.
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