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A Christmas tree above Earth on the ISS in 2015. Photo: NASA

Seven astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station will celebrate the holidays 250 miles above their families on Earth this year.

The cosmic picture: The space station has developed its own culture of decorations, traditions and time off for the holidays each year as crew members celebrate with each other, far from home.

What's happening: NASA's Kate Rubins, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan's Soichi Noguchi and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will ride out the holidays together on the ISS.

  • The crew members will share a holiday meal on Christmas Day, as other crews have done for years before them.
  • The crew will also decorate their home away from home, with plans for a Christmas decoration contest with Mission Control in Houston that will be decided on Christmas Eve, according to Rubins.
  • Crew members will also get a chance to speak with their families and get some time off for the holiday.

"I’ll spend some time thinking about and praying for all the folks that don’t get to be at home with their loved ones," Glover said during an interview with WNYW-TV broadcast by NASA Tuesday. "We understand that. We relate to it, and we’ll be thinking of them as well."

The backstory: In the 20 years since the space station became continuously staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts, crew members and space agencies have sent up holiday decorations like stockings and hats that have remained on the station.

  • Those decorations have now been used by multiple crews, with some hanging up stockings and displaying a small, fake Christmas tree.
  • Various crews have also decorated Christmas cookies in recent years, according to NASA.
  • And it's not just Christmas. Last year, NASA's Jessica Meir celebrated Hanukkah from aboard the station with some special socks and good wishes for the holiday.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 12, 2021 - Science

Orbital wine comes back to Earth

Photo: NASA

Twelve bottles of red wine are making their way back to Earth after spending more than a year aboard the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The wine is more than just a frivolous novelty. The researchers behind the wine experiments — which also involved sending grape vines to the station — are hoping to learn more about how plants respond to stress, with an eye toward how they might behave on a warmer Earth in the future.

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.