elf in space
Astronauts take Christmas cheer to space
00:53 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The holidays may look a little different this year due to the pandemic, but they will still happen – even in space.

The International Space Station will host seven crew members throughout the holiday season, the most ever for the orbiting laboratory in its 20 years of having humans living aboard.

The international crew includes NASA astronauts Kate Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover Jr. and Shannon Walker; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi; and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov.

The international crew will sit down for a special meal together. The team members will also call home to talk with friends, family and loved ones.

“I’m very happy to be on the space station this year because I get to share American traditions with my international crew mates,” Walker said in November.

The menu includes cornbread dressing, smoked turkey, green beans and mashed potatoes. Noguchi brought some special Japanese “party food” to share, including curry rice, red bean rice and some special seafood that a Japanese high school student on Earth prepared for the crew.

The crew also shared their Thanksgiving wishes from space on Wednesday.

“The year 2020 is a tough one, but it’s also the the year of Perseverance and the year of Resilience and I really hope every one of you cherish every moment with your friends and family,” Noguchi said in November. (The names of the Perseverance rover and the SpaceX Crew-1 capsule Resilience, both launched this year, seem even more meaningful to the crew during the pandemic.)

For Hopkins, its his second Thanksgiving in space after spending the holiday on the station in 2013.

“For me, Thanksgiving is all about family,” Hopkins said. “This year, I’m spending it with my international family. We all feel very blessed to be up here and we’re very grateful for everything we have.”

Holidays away from Earth

Astronauts have marked the tradition of celebrating holidays in space since the days of the Apollo mission, when the Apollo 8 crew famously shared their Christmas Eve message in a live television broadcast in 1968 by taking turns reading from the Book of Genesis in the Bible.

How these holidays are marked and celebrated is up to each individual crew, and space veterans tend to share suggestions and ideas with rookies before they go up, NASA astronaut Dr. Andrew Morgan told CNN.

Morgan spent the entirety of the holiday season on the space station in 2019 alongside crewmates Jessica Meir, Christina Koch, Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Skripochka and Luca Parmitano.

It's not Thanksgiving in space without some handmade turkey decor.

It was a busy time on the space station with multiple spacewalks and experiments on the schedule, but the astronauts were able to come together for a special meal that weekend with their international crew members and talk about what Thanksgiving meant to them.

Turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes are on the standard menu for NASA astronauts in space, but they also saved special treats like smoked salmon and cranberry sauce to share with each other. In space, the cranberry sauce perfectly retains the shape of the can it came in. Meir and Koch also made hand turkeys for their table decor.

Out of this world Christmas memories

In the days leading up to the holiday, Morgan and his crew played Christmas music throughout the station and had classic holiday movies playing to create a festive atmosphere. The crew also used a projector with a recording of a burning Yule log to make it look like they had a cozy fireplace on 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.

Meir showed off her Hannukah socks in the cupola.