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ISS astronauts celebrate the New Year sixteen times

Amy Tyndall, News reporter
Jan 1, 2015, 18:19 UTC

Sen—As the Christmas excitement faded away, people started to focus on their New Year's Eve celebrations with friends. For astronauts aboard the International Space Station, this was no different, except for one twist—they had the unique opportunity to ring in 2015 a whopping 16 times as they orbited the Earth on board the International Space Station (ISS).

In a message downlink from the ISS, pre-recorded on 17 December, two US crew members, NASA's Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts, passed on their message to the world for a “happy, healthy, prosperous 2015”.

They explained how they would be passing over a country as its clocks chime midnight an amazing 16 times within one 24-hour period, and that they planned on joining in with the celebrations each time in their honour.

The ISS completes one orbit of the Earth every 92 minutes, travelling through space at an incredible 17,150 miles per hour (roughly 5 miles per second).

Both astronauts are currently aboard the ISS for Expedition 42, along with Russian cosmonauts Elena Serova, Alexander Samoukutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, all of whom are flight engineers.

Barry “Butch” Wilmore has been on board the ISS since September 2014 and will return to Earth in March 2015, with this being his second visit to the Station. His first visit was on STS-129 in November 2009 to deliver over 13 tonnes of replacement parts for Station maintenance.

Terry Virts joined him in late November 2014 and will leave the station after Wilmore, in May 2015. This is also his second visit to the ISS, his first being with STS-130 in 2010 to deliver the Cupola—an observatory module consisting of seven windows that give a 360º view of the outside of the Station.


The crew of Expedition 42, from left, Russian cosmonaut Elena Serova, NASA commander Barry Wilmore, cosmonauts Alexander Samoukutyaev, Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Terry Virts and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Image credit: NASA/Bill Stafford

Research projects during this mission will include looking at how cells grow and develop in a microgravity environment, with the aim of investigating the effects long-term spaceflight can have at a cellular level in living creatures. Using the results from this study, it is hoped that scientists will be able to develop a way to prevent the astronauts' immune systems from being degraded during future long-duration missions.

Another experiment that will be carried out during Expedition 42 is observing the composition and distribution of aerosols in Earth's atmosphere, which affect the climate, weather and human health, amongst other things. With this information, it may be possible to create models that predict climate change by investigating how Earth's atmosphere is evolving.