Nine months ago I’ve arrived at the station. And today we are putting up our tree – baubles, decoration, all as it should be during the holiday season! We’ve had quite a few holidays up here – the 1st of May, then Victory Day, I’ve also celebrated my second anniversary in space… And now it’s the New Year, a special time for all of us! Life on the orbital station follows its own pattern, different from life on Earth. There’s no extended Christmas break, and Saturdays and Sundays are the only official days off. The most important holiday for the Russian crew is the Cosmonautics Day. But the New Year, of course, is still celebrated, and with all due preparations too. Our station is our space home and, like our home back on Earth, it requires cleaning and tidying up. Weightlessness, of course, demands certain specific techniques and methods. Let’s start with our dining table, where we eat three times a day. Here we use these special wet towels called “Sanitizing tissues for hard surfaces”. We do this every Saturday. Using this towel we carefully wipe down all the surfaces of the table… The special sanitizing solution in the tissue will get rid of all the spots left on the panels by flying drops of tea or juice… It’s microgravity up here, and even soup sometimes gets “spilled” on the walls. So it all must be cleaned up, like so… There are certain tricks to working and eating in weightlessness. These tethered scissors here are a good example… In order to prevent utensils or cans of food from floating away we have come up with a DIY space table attachment system, utilizing this sticky tape.
Let me show you how this works… We take a strip of tape, with the sticky side up, and then attach it to the table by folding the ends like this… Then we press it down to make sure it stays put. And in a minute I will demonstrate the completed system in operation… Also we have a TV here – just like in my kitchen back home! Alright, the dining table’s all clean and ready for the new week. And notice our space table attachment system, fully installed… See how convenient it is! Now I can put down my mustard, and ketchup, and spoon, and they don’t fly away! Bon appétit! Cleaning doesn’t stop with the Service Module’s dining table, of course. The weekend is here, and just like back home, Saturday is a tidy-up day. And one of our cleaning methods is vacuuming. Same as on Earth, there’s a lot of dust up here, and it always accumulates on the ventilation filters everywhere. Also some of the walls are covered with soft Velcro material, which is really handy for holding stuff in place using the Velcro strips. But at the same time this material accumulates a lot of dust, and at the slightest touch this dust gets released back into the air we breathe, so cleaning up is an important part of any spaceflight. Up here we use this vacuum cleaner. There aren’t many power sockets on the station so the cord has to be very long. This model is different from the ones they used back on Salut and Mir stations – if you were to watch the old chronicles from that time you would see how the cosmonauts used the exhaust air from the vacuum cleaner to propel themselves while flying around the station. Unfortunately we have been deprived of that function, as this model lets the air out smoothly through this upgraded exhaust valve. Anyway, let’s proceed with our cleaning! This is one of the ventilation duct filters and you can see how much dust got trapped on it, even though we clean this particular filter every other day. This vent leads to my sleep station so I always look after it very carefully, and always clean it, like this. This vacuum cleaner is not a quiet type, as you can probably hear… The nozzle attachments are interchangeable, and for the walls I’ll use a bigger one, of course. A benefit of weightlessness here is that I can comfortably clean the ceiling, by simply readjusting my position. See, now I’m on the ceiling! If I let it go, the vacuum cleaner will start spinning around, so I have to hold it still to keep working. All of these dust filters must be cleaned weekly, and when a cargo ship arrives the dust accumulates even faster, which is when we either replace the whole filter or carefully vacuum every slot, like so… I’ve changed the attachment and I now move on to vacuuming the panels, wherever they are covered with the Velcro fabric. We are now in the FGB module, and these ventilation grids here also require regular cleaning. So with our vacuum cleaner we must carefully go over the whole thing. This is where the air gets drawn into the ventilation system, which causes a lot of dust to accumulate here. So we diligently clean these and all the other air filters every Saturday. We must look after our space home, and after our health too! So this is pretty much how the cleaning is done up here. Alright, everything is now neat and tidy. The station is clean and ready for a new week! Today we would also like to tell you about our cargo spacecraft Progress. We always look forward to its arrival, as it brings us food and supplies, new equipment for science experiments, spare parts for maintenance and repair, as well as air and water. Also, while the spacecraft is docked to the station, we use its engines to adjust our course when avoiding collisions with orbital debris. And, finally, another very important function of a cargo ship is to help us get rid of rubbish. Just like back on Earth, lots of rubbish gets produced every day. We pack what we can in these leftover pouches, which we then place into the special rubbish bags, like these ones here… They are quite stretchy, so we try to pack them as tight as possible, and once they are full, like this one here, we place them inside the cargo ship. The bags are for either wet or dry rubbish. There are some other containers for holding rubbish, like this one here, for example. It is for dry stuff only, paper, plastic bags and so on. Once full, it will also be moved into the cargo ship. At the moment there are two cargo spacecraft docked to the station – one is at the docking module, and the other one is at the Service Module’s airlock, right behind me here. This ship has been fully unloaded, so we are going to go have a look inside. I am now inside the Progress spacecraft. As you can see it’s been almost completely unloaded, apart from these last few cargo containers. I hope this gives you an idea of what it looks like inside. Also here we have the valve panel for transferring water and oxygen from the ship to the station. Once this Progress has been fully unloaded we will start filling it up with rubbish containers and preparing it for undocking. As I mentioned earlier, the other cargo ship is currently at the docking module, and you can actually see it quite well through these windows. In a few weeks this ship will also get filled with rubbish and will burn up in the atmosphere. So I can safely say that cosmonauts do not litter – all our rubbish gets completely burned in the upper layers of the atmosphere. – At the temperature of 2000 degrees Celsius! And now I would like to invite you into an already packed Progress, which is almost ready for undocking. It’s quite full now, so I can barely fit in myself, but we’ll try to show you what we can… The load must be distributed evenly, and we try to keep it symmetrical, placing one heavy object opposite another, and so on… Here we have some old purification blocks, used containers, old bedding, and also those little rubbish bags I showed you earlier. While the cosmonauts were filming Progress spacecraft up on the station, another cargo ship was being prepared for launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome. Let’s go! Along with everything else this particular ship is carrying New Year presents for the cosmonauts from their families, as well as some special delicacies for the New Year’s Eve dinner. The most precious among those are fresh fruits and vegetables. They are a rare treat during the long spaceflight, so these packages will make holiday season in orbit all the more special. The “holiday” shipment contains a personal package for each of the cosmonauts. Their families prepare these parcels one and a half months prior to the launch of the cargo ship. Irina Kornienko is packing presents for her husband, who has now been in space for nine and a half months. A little bit of sweet, a little bit of savoury and a little bit of fun! Misha’s tastes have definitely changed, to my surprise. He doesn’t usually have a sweet tooth, but up in orbit there is, apparently, a seriously increased demand for glucose! Maximum weight is 5 kg. And the selection of allowed products is limited. Everything must be in the original packaging, and well in advance of the ‘best before’ date, taking into account the delivery time to orbit. The limitations have increased, too. I used to send him canned tomatoes, canned fish, some cheese. But this time none of those were allowed, just some biscuits, candy, honey, crackers… Decorations were ok too, just without any batteries. During the many years of their marriage this is their first New Year’s Eve so far away from each other. And in order to see her husband on December 31st Irina will be watching our channel’s live footage from an upcoming spacewalk. Oh, it’s a hard question to answer! I miss him, of course! And, yes, it’s difficult being apart. For them it’s probably harder though, being in the same enclosed space for so long, with the same people… But they’re doing really great! Exactly ten days before the New Year’s Eve the ‘holiday’ shipment was launched from Baikonur cosmodrome, and two days later arrived to the ISS. Today is a very busy, yet very exciting day for us! We are preparing for the arrival of our ‘holiday’ cargo ship that’s bringing us letters, presents from our families and from the Mission Control Centres. There will be so much to do today! Right now the spacecraft is approaching the station, and we should already be able to see it through the nadir windows. There it is, moving up and heading towards the docking module. So, our cargo spacecraft has now successfully docked, in fully automated mode and without any assistance from the crew, which is quite note-worthy, as this is a fully computerized, new generation cargo spacecraft. Everything went smoothly today and both crew and Mission Control were happy with the docking. We then performed the leak checks and opened the hatches. And now it is time to start unloading the presents and the Christmas tree. So, basically, a very exciting moment! Let’s go! This is the station’s docking cone, and this right here is the docking probe of the spacecraft. Twenty minutes ago they were both facing the vacuum of space. Now, after all the checks, the hatch has been opened and you can see all the cargo containers behind me here. We will now proceed to unloading supplies, equipment and, of course, our “Happy Holidays” parcels from home. A package from my family. Oh you can’t imagine how great it feels to receive it! And now – the most important element of the holiday season! I can’t even describe how much joy this little plastic tree brings us! It means that the New Year is upon us, which, in turn, means that in two months Sergei and I will be going back to Earth! I’ve been up here for nine months, with two more left to go. And now let’s get ready for our New Year celebrations! We are back in the Service Module, and first we’ll put up our tree. And now the presents! Let’s see what we got here… Some cute New Year decorations, we’ll definitely put these up. Crackers, biscuits… Greeting cards, this one is from my wife! Buckwheat honey! This is really good! And these single serving packs are very convenient in space, too. Honey in a large container always leaks in microgravity and makes a huge mess. So my wife found these… These are just some snacking croutons. I must add that these Russian-style croutons have become quite a favourite with our American colleagues too! Every crew member receives two of these parcels, plus the girls from the psychological support team send us some treats too – oranges, mandarins, grapefruits, apples, even some onions! So our New Year’s Eve dinner will be quite fancy! We will all get together in the Service Module, the whole crew around one table, and have our feast! It won’t be exactly like back on Earth, of course – instead of our traditional Russian dressed herring salad we are having some beetroot with garlic. Not the same, but similar in a way, don’t you think? Plus all the delicacies we have received today will help make it feel like home. Happy New Year, dear friends! And from all of us up here on the ISS we wish you all the best in 2016! On December 31st International Space Station crew can celebrate the New Year every one and a half hours – this is how long it takes the ISS to complete one orbit around the Earth, allowing it to cross the dateline between the old and the new year 16 times, over different time zones. So the cosmonauts have a chance to celebrate the coming of the new year together with literally everyone on the planet, in every time zone. But they limit themselves to only three – Moscow time, Houston time and Greenwich Mean Time, which is the official time followed on board the ISS. Happy New Year and Merry Christmas! It is a wonderful time of the year! From early childhood we all learn to look forward to the snow, the Christmas tree, the presents. And when the clock strikes midnight we all make our wishes, and we hope they all come true! We believe in good things, we believe in our future and we believe in ourselves! And even though we are a few hundred kilometres up in the sky – in our thoughts and in our hearts we are together with all of you… And with our friends, our loved ones, with everyone in Russia! We wish you the best of health, happiness and prosperity! Happy New Year! From the flight engineers of ISS Expedition 46 – Sergei Volkov, Mikhail Kornienko and Yury Malenchenko.