ISS astronauts celebrate Christmas with decorating contest, canned mackerel and ‘visit’ from Santa


Christmas isn’t just an earthbound holiday: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station beamed special holiday greetings this week from 254 miles above the planet.

Five members of the station’s Expedition 64 crew praised ‘the resilience of the human spirit’ during this trying time and shared their hopes for a better new year.

There was also some holiday levity, as SpaceX Crew Dragon pilot Victor Glover showed off his socks, custom-printed with photos of his family, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency engineer Soichi Noguchi shared an early Christmas present for the team – a can of mackerel made by a group of schoolgirls.

The team also challenged Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to create holiday decorations made only of materials found in the building.

For the first time ever, the FAA granted Santa a special ‘commercial space license’  so he could stop off at the ISS on his annual journey delivering presents around the world, according to NORAD.

A can of mackerel donated by Japanese schoolgirls floats around the cabin as the crew of Expedition 64 ring in the Christmas holiday from aboard the International Space Station

In one video, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins said the team chose to name the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Resilience ‘in tribute to people around the world and to the teams that help make our mission possible during a year that changed all our lives.’

‘There couldn’t be a more fitting name to describe 2020,’ Glover added. ‘The resilience of the human spirit is something that we can truly celebrate in this special season.’

Noguchi said he hoped viewers took the opportunity to celebrate the holidays ‘before we turn the calendar to a fresh year with renewed hope and a spirit for the future.’

Glover also praise the efforts of service members and frontline workers, while Hopkins paid tribute to all those who passed away in 2020.

Astronaut Kate Rubins (left) Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins wish us a happy holidays from 254 miles above the Earth. Rubins challenged Mission Control at Houston's Johnson Space Center to a Christmas-decorating contest using only materials on hand

Astronaut Kate Rubins (left) Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins wish us a happy holidays from 254 miles above the Earth. Rubins challenged Mission Control at Houston’s Johnson Space Center to a Christmas-decorating contest using only materials on hand

Astronaut Victor Glover shows off his socks, which were custom-printed with photos of his family

Astronaut Victor Glover shows off his socks, which were custom-printed with photos of his family

The three were part of SpaceX’s first successful ‘space taxi’ flight, delivering them and astronaut Shannon Walker to the ISS on November 16.

There they joined NASA’s Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who were already onboard.

In another video, Walker said that whether it’s on Earth or in space, the holidays mean the ‘three Fs – family, friends and food.’

While they can’t exactly carve up a Christmas goose in the ISS’ microgravity, Noguchi unveiled a special can of mackerel made by schoolkids in Japan.

Schoolgirls at Wakasa High School in Obama City, Japan have been studying space-safe food for several years and the canned fish they created was recently approved for astronauts aboard the space station.

‘This is a small, small can of mackerel, but a giant leap for Japanese high school girls,’ Noguchi joked.

NASA deputy program manager Kenny Todd revealed earlier that a December 6 supply shipment also included ‘some type of Christmas-y food.’

The crew has December 25 off, but Rubins said they’ll follow tradition and deck the ISS with holiday decorations made of items around the station.

She challenged NASA flight director Zebulon Scoville and the Mission Control team at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to do the same with materials in the office.

Wearing a festive red-and-green Christmas blazer, Scoville responded ‘Challenge accepted!’ before adding ‘I may have to cut this coat up and make it into something new later.’

NASA flight director Zebulon Scoville in a festive red-and-green holiday blazer with the Mission Control team at the Johnson Space Center in Houston

NASA flight director Zebulon Scoville in a festive red-and-green holiday blazer with the Mission Control team at the Johnson Space Center in Houston 

This year, Santa made his first visit to the International Space Station, according to the Federal Aviation Administration 

‘For the first time ever, the FAA issued Santa a special commercial space license for a crewed mission to the International Space Station using his StarSleigh-1 space capsule powered by the Rudolph Rocket,’ the agency said. ‘The mission license includes both launch and reentry operations and will occur from a U.S.-based spaceport.’ 

FAA administrator Steve Dickson said he was happy to help Santa  bring ‘good will and joy’ to the crew.   

‘Let’s face it, 2020 was a difficult year and we all could use some special holiday cheer that only Santa can deliver.’

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