Astronauts on the International Space Station held their own summer Olympics in orbit over the weekend with a cosmic closing ceremony that capped days of weightless synchronized swimming, sharpshooting and even a new sport: “no-handball.”
The Expedition 65 astronauts celebrated the close of the Tokyo Olympics and the next summer Olympics in France in 2024 with a unique handover between Akihiko Hoshide (representing his home country of Japan) and Thomas Pesquet (representing France).
As shown on Pesquet’s Twitter feed over the last few days, Hoshide first handed over a small Olympic flag to Pesquet inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module in a symbolic passing of the torch for the summer games. The two astronauts shook hands. Pesquet then left the small flag floating while Hoshide pulled out an even larger one, with the Olympics symbol on the front and “Paris 2024” on the back. The astronauts then “blasted off” towards the ceiling of Kibo, leaving the Paris 2024 logo floating, facing the camera.
But what looked like even more fun was some of the sports in which the space team engaged, as shown on Pesquet’s Twitter feed.
One of them was a sort of “no-hands” handball, or “no-handball” as Pesquet described it. The crew gathered in a crowd at a junction of space station modules, with two “goalies” strategically blocking the entrances. Then the rest of the crew tried to use only their breath to blow the ball past the goalies.
Other Olympic activities included using elastics for “weightless sharpshooting” (they used big rubber bands), performing synchronized space swimming to (as Pesquet said) improve team cohesion, and doing gymnastics in microgravity. Roscosmos cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov received extra accolades for doing his “floor routine” without touching a thing, Pesquet said.
Earlier, Pesquet wrote that this was the very first space Olympics done from orbit.
“For crew cohesion, we put together a friendly competition between the Soyuz team and the Crew Dragon team. With sports specific to space, mind you,” he wrote almost two weeks ago, when the Olympics was still beginning. (Russia’s Soyuz and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are the two spacecraft that brought the current crew members to space.)
Mind you, this is by far not the first time the Olympics were celebrated in space.
One of the most famous examples took place during a 2013 spacewalk, when Russian cosmonauts performed a ceremonial torch relay (torch unlit for safety reasons) in celebration of the 2014 summer games in Soichi. Previous replica and unlit torches were launched in 1996 and 2000 on NASA space shuttles, but they stayed inside during their missions.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.