The International Space Station will provide seven crew members throughout the holiday season, making it the largest laboratory to keep humans aboard a ship in 20 years.
The international team includes NASA astronauts Kate Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Clover Jr. and Shannon Walker; Japan Space Agency astronaut Sochi Nokuchi; And Russian astronauts Sergei Good-Sverkov and Sergei Raishikov.
The international team will sit down together for a special meal. Team members will be invited home to talk to friends, family and loved ones.
“I am very happy to be on the space station this year because I share American traditions with my international teammates,” Walker said in November.
“2020 is a difficult year, but it is also a year of perseverance and regression. I hope each of you enjoys every moment with your friends and family,” Nokuchi said in November. (Both the Perseverance Rover launched this year and the SpaceX Crew-1 capsule regression seem to make more sense to the crew during the outbreak.)
Holidays from Earth
Astronauts have marked the tradition of celebrating holidays in space since the days of the Apollo mission, when the Apollo 8 crew famously shared their Christmas Eve message on a live television broadcast in 1968, taking turns reading from the book of Genesis in the Bible.
How these holidays are marked and celebrated is up to each individual group, and NASA astronaut Dr. Andrew Morgan told CNN that astronauts tend to share suggestions and ideas with rudeness before they go.
Morgan spent the entire vacation at the space station in 2019 with Jessica Mir, Christina Koch, Alexander Schwartzov, Oleg Skripochka and Luca Bermitano.
In the pre-holiday days, Morgan and his crew played Christmas music throughout the station and played classic holiday movies to create a festive atmosphere. The crew also used a projector with a recording of the burning Yule record, which looked like they had a cozy fireplace in the station, he said.
Considering the international character of their group, they actually celebrated Christmas twice: Christmas on December 25th and Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 7th.
If your idea is to buy Christmas presents on Black Friday, it would be very different for astronauts to think ahead of their spaceflight if the holidays are included.
“We had to think a year or so in advance to make sure we bought, packed, and kept these gifts full time,” Morgan said.
Morgan knew he was enjoying a special Russian feast called Burmitano Chocolate Cheese, which was basically a heavy chocolate fudge, so Morgan saved some of Burmitano’s present. Morgan gave each employee a harmonica in their stock so they could have a harmonica band.
Morgan was missing his family, thinking about the traditions he commonly shared with them. One of his favorites is spending Christmas Day burning only by candlelight. He grew up with this tradition and continues it with his family to this day.
When he woke up on Christmas morning at the space station, the lights were all turned off in the modules, a normal occurrence when the astronauts were asleep.
But Koch took the small incandescent lamps and covered them with gold ribbon to make them look like small burning candles. They were everywhere – in the lab, on the team, on the team eating fun.
“When I saw it, I was suffocating with nostalgia,” Morgan said. “It made me think about not seeing my family during Christmas, but also the thought of Christina’s gesture. She paid attention to those little details. It made so much sense. This station is one of the many memories I have cherished since I was in space.”
Many happy new year
The space station sticks to a table in Greenwich Mean Time. It orbits the Earth at 16,500 miles per hour with 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day.
So, when it comes time to say “Happy New Year”, there are many opportunities for the team to celebrate. They call for control of each mission as the New Year approaches their time zone.
New Year is a bigger holiday for the Russian team than Christmas, so the whole group enjoyed a great meal and snack together.
But the other great tradition involves watching a Russian movie, which, when translated, means “contradiction of destiny.” Morgan said in the 1976 Soviet romantic comedy television film “There is a strange storyline about a man who is drunk, he ends up in Leningrad, he does not know how he got there.”
Watching a movie on New Year’s Day in Russia is a cultural event, so it is played in the Russian section to respect tradition.
“It was extra special to enjoy it with our Russian teammates,” Morgan said. “Exchanging those traditions and enjoying each other’s holidays and sharing each other with an international team will be something I take from that experience. It covers everything about international cooperation and sharing traditions in different countries.”
Celebrates in solitude
While astronauts generally have the ability to send emails, make video conferences, and make phone calls, they still have some time to do this, so they can connect with family during the holidays.
In 2020, this is how families and friends connect social distance to be safe.
“While this may not be right, we still have a lot to thank,” Morgan said. “We have the technology to be a part of each other’s holiday experiences, whether in states, oceans or low Earth orbits, even if we are far away.”
This is his first Thanksgiving home since 2018. They usually visit astronauts and astronauts in Houston for training, which they will not be able to do this year.
Morgan said the key to enjoying this holiday season is similar to how astronauts celebrate in space: with planning, purpose and thought.
Connect with people you haven’t met in a while, think deliberately and make small gestures that can have a big impact, Morgan said.
Before going into space, he collected photos of his friends and family. In space, he took them to Kubola, where he knew the Earth from the space station, and took photos of his loved ones with the Earth as a backdrop. It was a simple thing, it took some planning, but gave joy to his loved ones.
Morgan shared his wish with the current crew at the space station and everyone on Earth.
“The vast majority of people on this planet are there right now because they are enjoying holidays separated from loved ones,” Morgan said. “But that division is limited. The team will come back and reunite. As this epidemic passes, we will all be reunited as human beings.”