As the first British astronaut in space since 1991, Tim Peake is going to have an epic Christmas.
He’s got the best excuse of anyone not to have faced Christmas shopping. But will he get much of a Christmas dinner? How do you unwrap a present in zero gravity?
Loaded put these and other vitally important festive questions to Chris Hadfield. The recently retired Commander flew on the International Space Station where Peake will spend Christmas. The Canadian also became famous for singing a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity on his acoustic guitar while floating around in Zero G.
Hadfield explains to Loaded just what it’s like to celebrate Christmas among the stars.
I flew on three space flights, and one of those meant I was on the International Space Station at Christmas. I launched almost three years ago to the day as Tim’s flight.
“Our Christmas tree was suspended upside down from the ceiling in zero gravity”
What you have to remember is that it’s not just Christmas that Tim will spend on board the ISS. He’ll spend Easter, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Russian orthodox Chrismas and all sorts of holidays up there.
As a crew, you can’t afford to honour everybody’s holiday from all around the world, because you’d never get any work done. The crew get one day’s partial holiday as a team every six weeks. The crew decide which holidays to honour – and Christmas is a pretty strong candidate.
On those partial holidays, you just do the critical things, so it’s nice for everyone, a chance to celebrate.
There will be a Christmas tree – we suspended ours upside down from the ceiling in zero gravity just because we could. The decorations stay there just fine. There’ll be stockings and Christmas hats too.
As for Christmas dinner, there will be turkey with the trimmings. Well, kind-of. For one thing, there won’t be any plates to eat off, because plates don’t make any sense in zero gravity.
Instead, there are the usual green boxes that astronauts’ food comes in. So, Tim will have a box of mash – yum. And a box of vegetables – yum again. And then a green box with turkey in. Mm-mmm, delicious.
Christmas Day is nice in space, Tim will be able to have a video conference call with his family and do his best to share Christmas just like all the other past crewmembers of the ISS, myself included. In some ways, it’s just like anyone trying to celebrate Christmas when you’re away from home for work.
Of course, the Russian cosmonauts on board the ISS with Tim will celebrate the Russian Orthodox Christmas a couple of weeks later. So in some ways, it’ll be like having two Christmases.
Loaded reporter Robert McCallum has written for many leading culture magazines and websites about music, sport, science, politics, fashion and arts. Follow Robert at @therobmccallum