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The Expedition 58 crew will spend Christmas in space for the first time since the Apollo 8 crew exactly 50 years ago.


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The Expedition 58 crew will spend Christmas in space for the first time since the Apollo 8 crew exactly 50 years ago.

Three people from the U.S., Canada and Russia are orbiting Earth today getting ready to observe Christmas and experience New Year’s Eve from space aboard the International Space Station. Back on Earth, another three station crew members have returned to their home bases just 24 hours after completing a 197-day mission aboard the orbital lab.


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Christmas was spent on Apollo 8 in 1968. This was a much smaller spaceship than is used today to transport astronauts and cosmonauts to the International Space Station

The first time three humans spent Christmas in space was 50 years ago in 1968 during Apollo 8 and was also the first time a crew orbited the Moon. This Christmas astronauts Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency with cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos will be soaring about 250 miles above the Earth’s surface in a much larger spacecraft. The Expedition 58 trio will share a traditional meal aboard the orbital lab, share gifts and call down to family during their off-duty day.

Kononenko is beginning his fourth mission on the station and will spend his second Christmas in space. McClain and Saint-Jacques are getting used to life in space for the first time and will return to Earth in June with Kononenko.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor returned to Houston late Thursday just one day after landing in Kazakhstan wrapping up her six-and-a-half month stay aboard the orbital lab. She parachuted to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft with her Expedition 57 crewmates Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

Written By: Mark Garcia NASA


Mark Garcia, NASA Editor, updated the facts, figures, and some history of the space station with expanded artistic rendering in the image below. Universal Digest is glad to add this information in addition to the standard article procedure. Because of the historic situation of astronauts not having been in a spaceship by itself since the moon orbits 50 years ago, it is a good time to provide this to the readers.

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This is a detailed expansion of the International Space Station. Mark Garcia of NASA just updated the facts, figures and history in November of 2018.


230 individuals from 18 countries have visited the International Space Station

The space station has been continuously occupied since November 2000

An international crew of six people live and work while traveling at a speed of five miles per second, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes.
In 24 hours, the space station makes 16 orbits of Earth, traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets

Peggy Whitson set the record for spending the most total time living and working in space at 665 days on Sept. 2, 2017
The acre of solar panels that power the station means sometimes you can look up in the sky at dawn or dusk and see the spaceship flying over your home, even if you live in a big city. Find sighting opportunities at

The living and working space in the station is larger than a six-bedroom house (and has six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym, and a 360-degree view bay window).
To mitigate the loss of muscle and bone mass in the human body in microgravity, the astronauts work out at least two hours a day.

Astronauts and cosmonauts have conducted more than 205 spacewalks (and counting!) for space station construction, maintenance and repair since December 1998

The solar array wingspan (240 feet) is about the same length as the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380.

The large modules and other pieces of the station were delivered on 42 assembly flights, 37 on the U.S. space shuttles and five on Russian Proton/Soyuz rockets.

The space station is 357 feet end-to-end, one yard shy of the full length of an American football field including the end zones.

Eight miles of wire connects the electrical power system aboard the space station.

The 55-foot robotic Canadarm2 has seven different joints and two end-effectors, or hands, and is used to move entire modules, deploy science experiments and even transport spacewalking astronauts.

Six spaceships can be connected to the space station at once.

A spacecraft can arrive at the space station as soon as six hours after launching from Earth.

Four different cargo spacecraft deliver science, cargo and supplies: Orbital ATK’s Cygnus, SpaceX’s Dragon, JAXA’s HTV, and the Russian Progress.

Through Expedition 52, the microgravity laboratory has hosted more than 2,400 research investigations from researchers in more than 103 countries.

The station’s orbital path takes it over 90 percent of the Earth’s population, with astronauts taking millions of images of the planet below. Check them out at

More than 20 different research payloads can be hosted outside the station at once, including Earth sensing equipment, materials science payloads, particle physics experiments like the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02 and more.

The space station travels an equivalent distance to the Moon and back in about a day.

The Water Recovery System reduces crew dependence on water delivered by a cargo spacecraft by 65 percent – from about 1 gallon a day to a third of a gallon.

On-orbit software monitors approximately 350,000 sensors, ensuring station and crew health and safety.

The space station has an internal pressurized volume equal that of a Boeing 747.

More than 50 computers control the systems on the space station.

More than 3 million lines of software code on the ground support more than 1.5 million lines of flight software code.

In the International Space Station’s U.S. segment alone, more than 1.5 million lines of flight software code run on 44 computers communicating via 100 data networks transferring 400,000 signals (e.g. pressure or temperature measurements, valve positions, etc.).


International Space Station Size & Mass:

Pressurized Module Length: 240 feet (73 meters)
Truss Length: 357.5 feet (109 meters)
Solar Array Length: 239.4 feet (73 meters)
Mass: 925,335 pounds (419,725 kilograms)
Habitable Volume: 13,696 cubic feet (388 cubic meters) not including visiting vehicles
Pressurized Volume: 32,333 cubic feet (916 cubic meters)
With BEAM expanded: 32,898 cubic feet (932 cubic meters)
Power Generation: 8 solar arrays provide 75 to 90 kilowatts of power
Lines of Computer Code: approximately 2.3 million

Last Updated: Nov. 5, 2018

Editor: Mark Garcia NASA

UNIVERSAL DIGEST is pleased to be a conduit for some of NASA’s projects and work. This article and some others were written by NASA and are mostly unedited. We do not claim credit, we simply want to make them more available to the general public.

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