After a year filled with failed launches and delivery disasters, astronauts on board the International Space Station finally got a much needed care package just in time for the most wonderful time of the year. At 22:44 italian time, on December 6, 2015, Orbital ATK’s CRS Orb-4 (for “commercial resupply services”) launched successfully from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Cygnus capsule reached the International Space Station, and successfully delivered 3,5 tons of materials, food, hardware, scientific equipment and Christmas gifts for Expedition 44 on board.
Working on the International Space Station is a hazardous and important job, and the astronauts are sent up there to conduct wide-ranging research in a microgravity habitat, while orbiting the Earth at 7.66 kilometers per second; But the six astronaut currently on board of the International Space Station got to celebrate Christmas day as the world celebrated below them. However, given the constraints of living on the space station, it’s impossible for the astronauts aboard to enjoy a freshly roasted turkey or mashed potatoes: so what do the good people working on the ISS eat? Vickie Cloeris, who manages the food that gets sent up to the space station, said astronauts get a selection of classic Christmas meals to tuck into during the holiday. Nasa tends to control the operation of the International Space Station, thus the Christmas food that reaches the astronauts is typically traditional American classics (turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes, cornbread, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams) served out of small plastic packages that can be rehydrated and heated up in a special oven on board.
On top of that, every crewmember gets (typically for every month he/she gets to spend on board) what’s called a special bonus container, in which they can make special requests if they have a special brand of candy or cookie or food that they want to bring aboard. Also there might be a crew care package from families containing certain nuts or crackers that are part of their tradition on the ground. Unfortunately the tradition of being unhealthy and go around in sweatpants for the rest of the holidays is not allowed in space: astronauts have to constantly be in perfect physical condition. Thus, many salty foods which can weakens bones in microgravity are prohibited on board, as are carbonated beverages because the only way you can have those in microgravity condition is in pressurized containers (carbon wouldn’t stay distributed otherwise) – and that would cost $2000 a can.
It’s difficult to stay away from your family during the holidays, but there’s a positive side of being in space during this time of the year. Being currently aboard three russian cosmonauts (Yuri Malenchenko, Sergey Volkov, and Mikhail Kornienko), and given their tradition of celebrating Christmas according to Orthodox Christmas tradition, there will be two Christmases celebrated on the ISS: one on the 25th of December, and one on the 7th of January.
In a Christmas message sent from the International Space Station, Major Tim Peake told the Earth: “Christmas is traditionally a time for friends and family to get together, and although we can’t be with our friends and family this year, we will be orbiting 16 times on Christmas Day and sending all our good wishes to everybody back down on beautiful planet Earth.”
So Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you on Earth and to those who are currently up there from all of us of 360!