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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 26, 2021 - Science

Investment in the space industry overcame the pandemic's headwinds in 2020

A SpaceX launch in 2020. Photo: SpaceX

Investment in the space industry continued to grow in the last quarter of 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Space Capital.

Why it matters: The space industry turned out to be far more robust in the face of the pandemic than many experts were initially expecting.

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2 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.