The International Space Station will host seven crew members during the festive season, the most for the orbiting laboratory in the 20 years that people have been on board.
The international crew includes NASA astronauts Kate Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker; Japanese Space Agency Soichi Noguchi astronaut; and Russian astronauts Sergei Kud-Sverchkov and Sergei Ryzhikov.
The international crew takes a day off from work on the space station and sits down together for a special meal and calls home to talk to friends, family and loved ones.
“I’m really excited to be on the space station this year because I can share American traditions with my international crew peers,” Walker said. He hinted that they could broadcast some football games, that’s another Thanksgiving tradition. This is the second day of Thanksgiving in space; He was also on the space station in November 2010.
The menu includes cornbread sauce, smoked turkey, green beans and mashed potatoes. Noguchi brought some special Japanese “beach food,” including curry rice, red bean rice, and some special seafood prepared on Earth for a crew by a Japanese high school student.
“2020 is a difficult year, but also a year of perseverance and resilience, and I really hope you all nurture the moments with your friends and family,” Noguchi said. Launched this year, the Perseverance rover and SpaceX Crew-1 capsule’s Resilience name seems even more significant to the crew during a pandemic.
For Hopkins, this is the second Thanksgiving in space after spending his vacation at the station in 2013.
“For me, Thanksgiving is about family,” Hopkins said. “I’m spending time with my international family this year. We all feel very happy to be here and we are very grateful for everything there is.”
Vacation away from Earth
Astronauts have been celebrating tradition in space since Apollo Mission Day, when the crew of Apollo 8 famously shared their Christmas Eve message on a live television show in 1968 by taking turns reading the Bible Genesis.
How these holidays are marked and celebrated can be decided by each crew, and space veterans tend to share suggestions and ideas with newcomers before they go up, ”NASA astronaut Andrew Norgan told CNN.
Morgan spent the entire festive season at the space station in 2019, alongside Jessica Meir, Christina Koch, Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Skripochka and Luca Parmitano.
Turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes are on NASA’s astronauts ’main menu in space, but special delicacies such as smoked salmon and cranberry sauce have also been saved to share. In space, the cranberry sauce perfectly preserves the shape of the run-in can. Meir and Koch also made hand turkeys for their table decoration.
Christmas memories from this world
In the days before the holiday, Morgan and his crew played Christmas music throughout the station and played classic holiday movies to create a festive atmosphere. A projector was also used to record a burning yule diary to make it look like there was a cozy fireplace at the station, he said.
Given the international nature of their crew, they actually celebrated Christmas twice: Christmas on December 25 and Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 7.
If the idea of planning ahead is to buy Christmas presents on Black Friday, then astronauts think completely differently about astronauts if they include the holidays.
“We had to think about a year or more in advance to make sure we bought, wrapped and kept these gifts a secret all the time,” Morgan said.
Morgan knew that Parmitano was enjoying a Russian delicacy called a special chocolate door, which was essentially a heavy chocolate fudge, so Morgan saved some with Parmitano’s gift. Morgan gave each of his staff an accordion in his stockings to have an accordion band on board.
Morgan missed his family and thought about the traditions he would normally share with them. One of your favorites spends Christmas Eve only by candlelight. He grew up with this tradition and continues with his family.
When he woke up at the space station at Christmas, all the lights in the modules went out, which is normal while the astronauts are asleep.
But Koch took small flashlights and covered them with gold-colored ribbon to resemble small burning candles. They were everywhere – in the lab, in the staff accommodation, in the kitchen where the crew ate.
“When I saw this, nostalgia was stifled,” Morgan said. “I thought I’d miss my family at Christmas, but just the thoughtfulness of Christina’s gesture. She was paying attention to that little detail and it was extremely sensible. It’s one of the many memories I keep from my time at the space station.”
Happy New Year
The space station operates in Greenwich Mean Time to stick to the schedule. The crew sees 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets a day orbiting the Earth at around 17,500 miles per hour.
So when it comes time to say “Happy New Year,” the crew has a lot of chances to celebrate. They make a call to each mission control when the new year arrives in their time zone.
New Year’s Eve is a much bigger holiday at Christmas for the Russian crew, so the whole crew came together to enjoy a great meal and a toast in the year ahead.
But the other great tradition involves watching a Russian film, which, when translated, essentially means “The Irony of Fate.” The 1976 Soviet romantic comedy-television film “has a slightly strange plot about a gentleman who gets so drunk, gets to Leningrad and doesn’t know how he got there,” Morgan said.
It is a cultural phenomenon to watch the film in Russia on New Year’s Eve, so it is played in the Russian segment in honor of tradition.
“To experience that with our Russian crew was extremely special,” Morgan said. “Exchanging these traditions, experiencing and sharing each other’s holidays in an international crew, that will be the thing I will lose from this experience. It will embody all the good things in international cooperation and sharing traditions in different countries.”
While astronauts are usually able to send emails, hold video conferences, and make phone calls, they get a little more time so they can connect with the family during the holidays.
In 2020, both family and friends will connect when they provide social distance to stay safe.
“While not perfect, we still owe a lot to everything,” Morgan said. “The technology is available to be part of each other’s holiday experiences, even though we are far apart, whether through states, oceans, or low ground trails.
It is the home of the first Thanksgiving since 2018. While Houston usually welcomes astronauts and astronauts who visit for training, they can’t do that this year.
Morgan says the key to enjoying the festive season is similar to the way astronauts celebrate in space: with planning, intent, and thoughtfulness.
You can connect with people you haven’t reached in a while, be deliberately thoughtful, and make small gestures that have a big impact, ”Morgan said.
Before he went into space, he collected photos of his friends and family. In space, he took them to the dome, where the Earth can be seen from the space station, and with his loved ones photographed with the Earth. It was a simple thing, although it required some planning, it brought joy to his loved ones.
Morgan also shared his wish for the current crew of the space station as well as for everyone on Earth.
“Just as most people on this planet now live the holidays apart from their loved ones,” Morgan said. “But this separation is finite. The crew will come back and reunite, this epidemic will pass, and we will all reunite as human beings.”