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Astronauts ring in New Year aboard space station to welcome 2022

An orbital sunrise is pictured from the International Space Station as it orbited 262 miles above Bolivia on the South American continent.
An orbital sunrise is pictured from the International Space Station as it orbited 262 miles above Bolivia on the South American continent. (Image credit: NASA)

The astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station are marking the New Year, becoming only the 37th crew in history to be in space as Earth begins another revolution around the Sun.

Expedition 66 crew members Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Anton Shkaplerov and Pytor Dubrov of Roscosmos marked New Year's Day as the space station circled the planet.

Just before the New Year, the crew celebrated together with a traditional  Saarland dinner hosted by Maurer, who is from Germany.  

"I wish you all a happy new year & all the best for 2022! Cosmic greetings & #Cosmic Kisses," Maurer wrote on Twitter alongside a time-lapse video of the dinner. "See you all next year!"

Related: 7 things the International Space Station taught us in 2021

"It is a privilege to have the perspective of seeing so many countries," said Marsburn in a NASA video sharing his thoughts about spending the New Year in space. "We can go from one side [of Earth] to another in just a few minutes and it truly gives us a feeling of unification for all human beings around the world."

"We get to see the sunrise 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 pretty cool," added Chari. 

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Traveling at 17,500 mph (28,000 km/h) at 260 miles (418 km) above Earth, the space station's crew experience 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day. The crew observes Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) aboard the orbiting outpost, so their strike of midnight took place 5 hours before the ball dropped in Times Square in New York City.

"I am looking forward to the next year," said Matthias. "All the science that we want to run here, all the experiments that will be a splendid start to the New Year!"

The Expedition 66 crew are the 22nd contingent to celebrate the New Year on the International Space Station. For the first time, though, they are not the only crew celebrating in space.

Elsewhere in Earth orbit, the three members of China's Shenzhou 13 mission, Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu, are marking the day aboard their country's burgeoning Tiangong space station. The Chinese space station is expected to be completed in 2022.

In addition to the one Chinese crew and 22 International Space Station expeditions, 12 crews aboard the former Russian space station Mir and one crew aboard Skylab, the United States' first orbital workshop, were off Earth for New Year's.

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Robert Z. Pearlman

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.