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How astronauts celebrate Christmas in space

This Christmas, there are six people living 268 miles above the planet's surface, in the International Space Station. And, as it does every year, NASA has supplied them with everything necessary to celebrate the holiday.

"We'll be separated from our families, but we've got each other, and we've got some plans for a gift exchange," Barry Wilmore, who's been on the ISS since September 25, said in an interview on CBS This Morning. "We'll celebrate it much like we would back home."

Here's how the astronauts — Wilmore and Terry Virts of NASA, plus Elena Serova, Alexander Samoukutyaev, and Anton Shkaplerov of Russia and Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy — will celebrate:


The crew outfitted the Destiny Laboratory module with stockings and a tiny upside-down Christmas tree a few weeks ago.

iss christmas

Samantha Cristoforetti floats in front of the ISS Christmas decorations. (NASA)

One interesting thing to note is that people have actually been decorating for Christmas in space for some time. Back in 1973, three astronauts on board Skylab — the first US space station — saved up their cans of food and fashioned them into a primitive little Christmas tree:

skylab christmas



The current ISS crew is equipped with Santa and elf hats:

During the CBS interview, Barry Wilmore also showed off a rather fashionable pair of oversized elf shoes:

iss christmas 2

(CBS This Morning)


NASA now provides astronauts a pretty varied menu of canned and freeze-dried foods, including holiday-oriented dishes like smoked turkey and mashed potatoes, which the astronauts will be eating on Christmas.

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A photo of the turkey, mashed potatoes, and other holiday foods served aboard the ISS. Taken Thanksgiving 2013. (NASA)

For each month they spend in space, each astronaut is also allowed one container of bonus foods that aren't part of the standard menu — things like cookies and candies.

Despite their best efforts, though, NASA dietitians are up against some obstacles. For one thing, astronauts have consistently reported that their sense of taste seems to be dulled in space, perhaps because of the way microgravity makes many of them congested much of the time in orbit.

Additionally, NASA can't send up any ingredients that require refrigeration, and there's a firm rule against any alcoholic beverages. In other words: no egg nog.

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