Christmas in Space: ISS astronauts share fond memories of the holidays

With Christmas and New Years just days away, astronauts working on the International Space Station (ISS) reflected on some of their fondest memories of the holidays back down on Earth.

NASA astronauts recounted memories with their children over Christmas among their most cherished memories. They said they looked forward to spending the holidays with their 'little family' of scientists hundreds of miles away from space.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, one of the newest crewmembers on the ISS, said a fond memory of his was getting up one cold morning to see the sunrise with his father in Tokyo, per Japanese tradition.

Fondest memories

Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei says his fondest memory of Christmas is, "There's lots of them, but one that really sticks out right now is where my children were very young and my wife and I would be staying up late making sure we're prepared for the next day and just quietly spending that time together. And then the excitement the next morning as the kids got up and be able to share that joy with them is really, really special to me."

"So being up in space, obviously the one thing that we thoroughly enjoy is looking back on our beautiful planet," explained Nasa astronaut Joe Acaba. "You may have heard most astronauts talk about how beautiful it is, how fragile it looks, and being up here during the holidays is new for me. I've been up here before on a long duration spaceflight. But it was at a different time of year. So this will be my first time during the holidays, and I think it's going to be pretty special to get together as a crew. I'm sure we're all going to want some kind of peaceful time in the cupola, looking at planet Earth and just thinking about everybody down there that is celebrating the various holidays in their own special way. And we have this great honor of being up here celebrating it as a little family. But then looking back on our beautiful planet and reflecting on how important it is to us."

Nasa astronaut Scott Tingle says his fondest memories of the holiday season was, "when I was a younger boy. All of the family would get together and just hang out we'd get up early on Christmas day 4:00 or 5:00 o'clock. The lights were out. We'd sneak down and see what Santa left us under the tree. And then of course mom and dad would come out go back to bed, so we'd have to sit in bed for another two or three hours until everybody was ready to come up. But those were, those were fun times. And as a dad myself, the same things are happening in my special memories of late are watching my kids do exactly the same things I did and watching myself do exactly the same things that my parents did as well. It's truly a special season."

Astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA said, "Just like in the United States in Japan Christmas and New Year Day is also very important and the families, family members gather and enjoy together a good time. And especially in Japan, in the morning on New Year's Day people go out and watch the first sunrise. That's pretty popular in Japan. I have a memory with my father walking in that very, very cold early morning in Tokyo to watch to watch first sunrise. It was a fun memory for me."