Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Houston.. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus" Celebrating Christmas in Space

"Houston.. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus."

At this time of year, as people all over the world gather with their loved ones to celebrate the holiday season, there are currently six people who will literally be having an out of this world Christmas this year. Space Station crews are launched on missions lasting around six months in duration. As a result, every year some astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the station unfortunately don't get to celebrate occasions such as Thanksgiving, birthdays, and of course, Christmas, with their families back on Earth. But that doesn't mean they don't celebrate them in space!

The Expedition 34 crew celebrating Christmas Day on ISS
On the ISS there are video-conferencing capabilities on board which allow the crew to talk with their family and friends at home. There is even a small plastic tree and stockings are hung on the walls for each member of the crew so that they can be filled with a few Christmas treats. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti who is currently living aboard the orbiting complex, was asked recently about what kind of items would be included as stocking fillers. She replied"If we come across someone's favourite dish when searching through a food container, we can stick it in his or her sock!" There is also a guitar and ukulele if the crew want to break out a few Christmas carols over the holiday season.

However, astronauts on the space station were not the first people to celebrate Christmas in space. The most famous example of astronauts celebrating the holidays was the crew of Apollo 8 back in 1968.

Spending Christmas at the Moon
On man's first mission to the Moon, NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders launched from the Kennedy Space Center on December 21 1968. While in lunar orbit just before Christmas Eve, in what has become a favourite Christmas memory for many, the crew snapped the famous Earthrise photo, and took turns in reading the first few verses of the book of Genesis. Valerie Anders, wife of Bill Anders said "The words were so beautiful. Christmas. the Moon, they were so far away and everybody cried."

"Earthrise" taken by Apollo 8 crew.
Christmas 1968.
Upon re-obtaining communications with Mission Control back on Earth after passing around the far side of the Moon, Lovell felt compelled to tell Houston and the world of their discoveries while flying over the far side of the Moon.

"Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!"
What's on the menu?
I bet a lot of you are probably wondering what's on the Christmas menu on the ISS. Well, there's a wide variety to choose from, ranging from tortilla wraps to irradiated beef for the crew on board. This sure stands in sharp contrast with the toothpaste-style food that would have been eaten by the Apollo 8 crew.

So when you settle down for a big Christmas turkey dinner and pudding for dessert on December 25, be sure to think of the six people living on the International Space Station, because you never know- maybe you'll be having your meal at the same time as them- as they fly 250 miles above planet Earth.

On behalf of Irish Space Blog we would sincerely like to wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas, a lovely New Year, and finally, to echo the words of Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman, "God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."