Former NASA Astronaut Depicts How He Spent Christmas in Space

Who said that astronauts based at the International Space Station can’t enjoy the spirit of Christmas even if they are far from home?

Terry Virts, one of the former locators of the orbiting lab, ​had a sparkle of inspiration while he was on duty on the ISS: he decided to decorate the place a bit. He left some powdered milk and froze dried cookies in the airlock, ornated with stockings and some festive clothing. Back in 2014, when Terry and his fellow astronauts lived in the space station, they tried their best to spread some cheer.

He told the media: “It’s like going to Hawaii for Christmas or South Africa – somewhere exotic. It was fun; I’m glad I spent one there – I wouldn’t want to spend every Christmas there.”

Enjoying the Christmas Holidays in Space

Terry mentioned two of his Russian colleagues, Elena Serova and Anton Shklaperov, and an Italian mate, Samantha Cristoforetti. He said that working with cosmonauts from various parts of the world had its benefits. Because the Russian Orthodox religion celebrates Christmas on January 7th, the team got to hold two Christmases.

For dinner on Christmas day in the space station, Terry had some re-hydratable turkey, similar to that served in the army, in a vacuum seal pack, and side dishes composed of beans, dried frozen stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

“It’s actually not bad; it’s not homemade, it’s much better down here on Earth. Normally you just eat when you can. I would always try and take my food down to the Russian segment. That was the highlight of my time in space, hanging out with the Russian guys, they were really fun,” he said.

Before his 200-day expedition between November 2014 and June 2015, Terry first flew to space on a shuttle mission in 2010 that lasted two weeks. 

The astronaut said: “For me, it was a profound and emotional experience. Earth is over there, and I’m not. That was definitely a profound experience. It kind of struck me how beautiful the planet was.

“The first view, it’s just overpowering, it was really hard to take my eyes off it. It was really distracting while I was flying the space shuttle.”

​Adjusting to Another World Was Difficult at First

​Terry captured numerous footage for the documentary ‘Beautiful Planet,’ released back in 2016, which depicts what life looks like in the International Space Station during a 15-month period.

Terry had two Russian colleagues, Elena Serova and Anton Shklaperov, and an Italian mate, Samantha Cristoforetti. [Image: Terry Virts]
One element of life in space that truly differentiates rookies from veterans is getting used to being in a continual zero-gravity state. Terry explained that the first few days are more difficult, as they tend to be incredibly disorientated and uncoordinated.

“After maybe a couple of days, it’s not bad, and after a week or two, you’re actually pretty good, and maybe after a month, you’re really good,” he explained.

At first, he remembers how worried he was that he wouldn’t be able to sleep in those conditions, but the difficulty he encountered when launched into space overwhelmed him and made it quite easy for him to fall asleep.

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