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It's a Didgeridoo Christmas day for space station crew

Extract from, on 1 January 2003


Christmas away from family is often hard. But Silverton native Don Pettit and his crew mates had fun aboard the International Space Station.

NASA's psychological support team arranged for holiday decorations and presents for the crew to enjoy. The crew had Christmas day off other than daily maintenance tasks. A Christmas tree flag was hung on a wall and commander Ken Bowersox noted that a bow placed over a hatch had earned them the "best decorated space station award." Each of the crew had a private conversation with their families and were able to watch as their families opened presents via a system similar to internet video.

Pettit told his wife Michelle that he had finished making his Christmas present for her. But she's going to have to wait a bit to get it. The next time a spacecraft will return from the space station will be the STS-114 shuttle in March, Pettit's ride home. This isn't the first time Pettit's made a present for her. She said that he handmade her wedding ring - out of gold he panned and silver which he recovered from used photographic film. She notes it's quite beautiful and she's wondering what he's made in space.

In addition, the crew talked to NASA boss Sean O'Keefe. O'Keefe mentioned that he had talked with Bowersox and Pettit's wives earlier in the day and Pettit asked, "Were the kids (2 year old twins) screaming in the background when you were talking to Micki?" and O'Keefe replied "Both kids were taking a nap."

On Christmas Eve Bowersox said "We've done some decorating. We'll make some Christmas cookies tonight. Who knows what Santa may have left in the morning?"

On Christmas morning Bowersox radioed to mission control "When we woke up this morning we noticed that the three little stockings we had hung under our tree were full. We think the psyche support group must have given Santa Claus our address.

I don't know how he got in - maybe through those air ducts."

He added "We know there must be some really good things inside - maybe a lump of coal for me."

Pettit, a nuclear physicist, said he was hoping for a lump of uranium.

Pettit had brought into space an unusual musical instrument - a Didgeridoo, an aboriginal Australian wind instrument. Pettit played the Didgeridoo while Bowersox sang "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - undoubtedly the very first time "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was played on a Didgeridoo in space - or possibly anywhere.

Capcom Karen Nyberg replied "That was awesome - thank you very much. We're rolling down here." Nyberg told the crew that she had brought in snicker-doodles, Hershey kiss cookies, and some brownies and Bowersox replied, "We're dying for snicker-doodles up here." Nyberg promised the crew that she'd have a bunch for them when they return to Earth.

Nyberg asked "Have you seen Santa Claus yet? He hadn't come to my house this morning and I'm a little worried." and Bowersox scolded "You've been a bad girl!" Nyberg said she didn't even get a lump of coal in her stocking so she was pretty certain that her house was just missed. Bowersox said "We saw Santa over Australia last night and we saw a few flashes over Africa." and Nyberg asked "If you see him, let him know he hasn't been to my house yet and I need some presents under my tree."

"We'll try to send him a signal by Didgeridoo code when we're up near the North Pole," Pettit replied.

One of Bowersox's presents was a harmonica so he and Pettit entertained mission control's afternoon shift with a harmonica and Didgeridoo duet of "Jingle Bells."

Pettit noted, "This is certainly a Christmas to remember – it couldn't be better. We're having the time of our lives. I get to work sunup to sundown and sunup to sundown 16 times a day."

For Christmas dinner Pettit was "looking forward to a nice bag of turkey, followed by a bag of stuffing, and maybe a bag of apricot cobbler."

By Philip Chien


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