Elon Musk’s SpaceX has successfully made a Christmas delivery to the astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS). The company’s Dragon capsule took two attempts to successfully complete the delivery.
The Christmas delivery
The Dragon pulled up near the ISS on Saturday, three days after launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Inside the ISS, Commander Alexander Gerst tried to catch the capsule using the robotic arm of the space station.
However, the first attempt was called off by NASA after a problem with the communication network was detected. The capsule was just too far away from the arm. The space agency did not want ISS crew members to put themselves at risk in capturing the Dragon.
NASA discovered that the problem was due to an equipment failure in the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) system in New Mexico. The agency switched to another TDRS satellite. About two and a half hours after the first attempt, Commander Gerst made the second attempt at catching the Dragon, this time successfully.
The capsule contained everything the crew needed to enjoy a hearty Christmas meal, including items like candied yams, smoked turkey, cranberry sauce, fruitcakes, butter cookies, shortbread, and green bean casseroles. Plus, the package also contained tubes of icing for decoration purposes.
SpaceX has been making a yearly Christmas delivery to the ISS on behalf of NASA ever since 2012. The latest delivery is the 16th such mission for the company. As far as the recycled Dragon capsule is concerned, this is the second delivery it has made since Christmas 2017.
At present, the ISS is home to six members — two Russians, two Americans, one German, and one Canadian. Three of the members will return back to Earth on December 20, 2018. As such, only the three remaining members will be celebrating Christmas on board the ISS this year.
ISS and Christmas celebrations
Since 2000, astronauts at the space station have been given time off to celebrate Christmas every year. Members usually dress up with Santa hats, decorate the ISS with stockings, set up a small Christmas tree, and enjoy a hearty Christmas dinner to celebrate the festival. They also receive goodie bags from their families, which usually are filled with games, books, and some chocolates. The astronauts say that these bags act as “psychological support kits” during their stay in space.
Apart from the Christmas meal, every other regular meal is quite bland. “Much of the menu is made up of vacuum-packed, dehydrated food, which is prepared by adding water and heat in space. They use a space food re-hydrator, which uses water left over as a by-product of the space station’s fuel cells. Astronauts can also enjoy condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard, as well as salt and pepper. However, the salt and pepper are suspended in liquid to make sure the particles don’t float off into the air — and clog up any equipment,” according to the Daily Mail.
Unfortunately, alcohol is strictly forbidden inside the space station except for the purposes of experimentation. So the astronauts will have to dial down the “merry” part of the Christmas. Currently, two other supply ships are attached to the ISS. One is NASA’s commercial shipper, the Northrop Grumman. The second one is a Russian capsule.