A Christmas that’s out of this world! Cheery photos show how astronauts celebrate the holidays with stockings and trees made from leftover food containers on NASA’s space stations
- The Apollo 8 mission in 1968 was the first time humans spent Christmas in space and hosted a live broadcast on Christmas Eve morning
- It was not until 1973 did astronauts first celebrate Christmas on a NASA space station, Skylab, which also saw the first Christmas tree in space
- The tree was made using leftover food containers and used colored decals as ornaments
- From there, astronauts have had artificial and real Christmas trees, hung stockings up in doorways and have even projected a fiery Yule log on the interior of the International Space Station
More than 200 miles above Earth’s surface, astronauts are enjoying a Christmas celebration out of this world.
Spacefaring heroes may have spent many holidays far away from friends and family, but have brought joy to their tight quarters with Christmas trees, stockings hanging from doorways and a Yule log projected on the interior of the International Space Station (ISS).
The Apollo 8 mission in 1968 was the first crew to spend the holidays in space and celebrated by broadcasting the first image of Earth back home, along with a live broadcast on Christmas Eve morning.
The first Christmas tree in space: Astronauts Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue and Edward G. Gibson spent the holidays aboard NASA’s Skylab in 1973, which was America’s first space station. The crew put a tree together using leftover food containers and decorated it with colored decals
Commander Frank Borman spoke during the broadcast, describing the moon as a ‘vast,’ ‘lonely,’ and ‘forbidding,’ but ‘makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.’
And five years later, humans celebrated the first holiday aboard a space station.
Three crew members of the 1973 Skylab 4 mission, a research platform in low-Earth orbit, built a Christmas tree using leftover food containers, finished it with colored decals as ornaments and topped it with a cardboard cutout in the shape of a comet.
The tradition has since carried on over the decades as astronauts spend the holidays singing Christmas carols, exchanging gifts and watching holiday movies in hopes of bringing some cheer to the final frontier.
Rockin’ around the Christmas tree: The makeshift tree branches were attached to a pole fixed to the floor since there was zero gravity inside the station. And at the top was a cardboard cutout in the shape of a comet
Deck the halls: Expedition 34, which occupied the ISS in 2012, had a real Christmas tree for the holidays, which they decorated with sparkling pompom ornaments, and hung stockings inside a doorway. NASA’s Kevin Ford brought his guitar along for the trip to space and played it on Christmas Day
The first noel: The first Christmas spent in space was in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. The crew, Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and William Anders, shared the first picture of Earth that has since been known as the ‘Blue Marble’. Borman spoke during a live broadcast from space on Christmas Eve morning and described how lonely the moon is
Christmas time is here: Kayla Barron shows off presents she wrapped for her six crew mates during Expedition 66 in 2021
Santa Clause is coming to the ISS: Festive hats are always worn by crew members on Christmas Day, and because the station has zero gravity, the tip of the hats stand straight up. Resupply missions before the holidays brought astronauts an artificial Christmas tree. Pictured is the Expedition 30 crew in 2011
Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated in space: The first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1993 and mission specialist Jeffery Hoffman was the first person to celebrate Hanukkah on a spacecraft. He brought along a small dreidel that floated inside the craft
Expedition 24 flight engineer and NASA astronaut David A. Wolf took a picture with his menorah and dreidel to celebrate Hanukkah in 1997. The crew also had a small Christmas tree and dressed up an astronaut suit to look like Santa Claus
Say Merry Christmas: NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts share the ISS and spend the holidays together. Valeri I. Tokarev of Roscosmos (left) and NASA astronaut William McArthur of Expedition snapped a festive pictured of them holding stockings while they were both on the ISS in 2005
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in space: Santa clause hats are worn yearly on Christmas. In 2006, NASA’s Michael Lopez-Alegria and Sunita Williams and Russia’s Mikhail Tyurin showed off the hats in a photo
Silent night: A projection of a Yule log was displayed on the ISS in 2020. The fiery imagery with stockings hanging above made it feel like home for astronauts who spent the holidays 250 miles above Earth’s surface