It’s not easy being away from family and friends during the holidays. The astronauts up in space know that feeling all too well. When you’re on a space mission with no option to go home, you must find ways to celebrate with your crew, instead. Here are some of the ways astronauts keep things merry in microgravity.
The Apollo 8 crew members were not only the first to leave Earth’s orbit, but they were also the first to spend Christmas in space. Although far from Earth, they shared their Christmas celebrations with the approximately 1 billion people who tuned in from their homes for the Christmas Eve broadcast.
Skylab 4 astronauts spent 84 days orbiting the Earth and had a lot more supplies to use in their celebrations. Leftover food cans made a festive craft project in orbit. They constructed their own silver can Christmas tree and topped it with a cardboard cutout of a comet. The crew was also the first to celebrate Thanksgiving and New Year’s in space.
Now that various crews have been living continuously aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for more than 22 years, many Christmases have been celebrated in space, complete with stockings and Santa hats for the crew. Astronaut Kayla Barron even wrapped and distributed gifts to her crewmates.
New Year’s Eve
When you orbit the Earth every 90 minutes, you get a lot of chances to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Many New Year’s celebrations have been held aboard the different outposts. Russian cosmonaut Elena Kondakova brought a bottle of champagne aboard the Mir station in 1994 and demonstrated the behavior of the liquid in microgravity. The ISS’s Expedition 61 crew rang in the new year with a bit of music, bringing out the harmonica to celebrate.
Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman celebrated the first Hanukkah in space by bringing a travel-size menorah and dreidel aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. This was during STS-61, a Hubble Space Telescope repair mission conducted in 1993. Flames generally are not welcome aboard spacecraft, so the menorah stayed unlit. However, Hoffman did give the dreidel a spin in microgravity. If he had lit the menorah though, the flames would actually have been spherical. Without the forces of gravity pulling cold air down and allowing warm air to rise, flames form into an orb rather than the typical tall shape we are used to on Earth. As a fun bonus, astronaut Jessica Meir also brought some wacky Hanukkah socks to show off in space. She took a picture wearing them in the International Space Station’s Earth-facing window, the cupola.
Some crews aboard the International Space Station have launched into space with their own costumes to celebrate Halloween. These costumes often include only a t-shirt and small accessories in order to save weight during the space launch, but occasionally they get more complex. European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano floated around the space station in a Superman costume, while NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik did his best minion impression.