ISS astronauts stage the first-ever galactic Olympics! Children’s news article
The COVID-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics ended on August 8, 2021, with a spectacular closing ceremony and fireworks. To mark the occasion, the seven astronauts a board the International Space Station (ISS) organized the very first Space Olympics. The four events model after the classic Summer Games competitions, includes fun twists to consider weightlessness.
Members of both teams were selected based on the spacecraft that delivered the astronauts to the ISS. The Dragon team consisted of NASA’s Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, Japan’s Aki Hoshide and France’s Thomas Pesquet. The Soyuz team included Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitsky, and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei.
The two-day event, held on the weekend of August 8, 2021, began with synchronized “swimming”. The lack of water on board the space station did not seem disconcert the competitors. They worked perfectly choreography floating routines rather.
Then there was the “lack of floor” gymnastics. The astronauts’ weightless flips and somersaults would have amazed even the world’s best gymnast, Simone Biles. Dubrov received a supplement to rent of his fellow team members for completing his routine without touching the walls of the space station.
The competition was followed by a four-minute handball match. On land, players usually cross the pitch and try to kick the ball into the opposing team’s goal. However, on the ISS, the ingenious match “no handball” account about players using their breath to blow a small ping pong ball through the opposing trapdoor – each guarded by a “goalkeeper”. The competition was fierce, especially after the rules changed midway through and allowed the use of body parts above the knee. The thrilling event ended with the Soyuz team scoring in the final seconds and winning the game.
The fourth and final event was sniping, with the astronauts using large rubber bands to hit the target. The lack of gravity and aerial resistance made the already difficult event even more difficult.
The space games ended with a symbolic closing ceremony. It echoed the handing over of the Summer Games to Paris on Earth. Hoshide, representing Japan presented French astronaut Pesquet with a small flag. It featured the symbol of the Olympic Games on the front and “Paris 2024” on the back.
While this was the first-ever space competition, it wasn’t the first time ISS astronauts had celebrated the Olympics. In 2013, Russian cosmonauts performed a spacewalk with a replica of the Olympic torch to mark the Sochi 2014 Winter Games. Similar torches were also used in 1996 and 2000. However, they remained inside the ISS both times.
Resources: Businessinsider.com, Space.com, NASA.gov