While people on Earth were busy celebrating Christmas with their loved ones, exchanging gifts and partying, astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) were also doing much of the same while floating weightlessly around 400 kilometres above the Earth.
The three NASA astronauts currently aboard the ISS (Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle) got a day off this Christmas.
“Because the crew are typically off-duty on the weekends, too, they'll get to enjoy a special long weekend in space. Instead of doing research or working on science experiments, they will spend the day relaxing, calling their families and opening gifts,” said NASA spokesman Dan Huot.
Some Christmas gifts travelled with the most recent crew of three, who arrived at the ISS on December 19. A Cygnus cargo spacecraft that arrived in November also brought some gifts from the astronauts' families.
Merry Christmas from the International Space Station! pic.twitter.com/F1ye4d7MXN— Mark T. Vande Hei (@Astro_Sabot) December 25, 2017
“We have packages and gifts from our families and friends, and packages on board the ISS labeled to open on Dec. 25 for U.S. crewmembers and Dec. 31 for us from Russia,” Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov was quoted by Space.com as saying on December 19, one day before he launched to the ISS with Tingle and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai.
There's even at least one small artificial Christmas tree aboard the space station. "We [already] have a Christmas tree aboard, and there is a new Christmas tree arriving soon," Shkaplerov said during the prelaunch briefing.
The crew also watched "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" during the weekend. Astronaut Mark Vande Hei tweeted a photo of the astronauts aboard the space station enjoying the flick.
While Vande Hei did not mention "The Last Jedi" by name, you can clearly see the image of X-wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) on the station's big screen, Space.com reported on Sunday.
Space Station movie night, complete with “bungee cord chairs”, drink bags, and a science fiction flick! pic.twitter.com/IPZ2thI8rw— Mark T. Vande Hei (@Astro_Sabot) December 24, 2017
"Space Station movie night, complete with 'bungee cord chairs', drink bags, and a science fiction flick!" Vande Hei wrote on Twitter.
NASA earlier confirmed that it would screen the movie in orbit in collaboration with Disney for the Expedition 54 crew members, including NASA astronauts Vande Hei, Joe Acaba and Scott Tingle.
Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are the other members of the current crew.
In a statement, NASA announced that "Disney will uplink the film to the space station through mission control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston."
But this is not the first time a movie was screened on the space station. Disney also sent Star Wars: The Force Awakens to space in 2015 for the entertainment of the astronauts aboard the space station.
According to a report in The Verge, enjoying movies on board the ISS is not unusual and the space station is stocked with an extensive digital library of more than 500 titles, including classics and newer hits.