For Americans, the 4th of July signifies freedom, a time for family gatherings, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, fireworks, and so much more. This year marks the 238th year of the United States of America’s independence.
“The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Second Continental Congress of the 13 colonies, meeting in Philadelphia. The tradition of celebrating July Fourth with fireworks, parades and speeches spread from Philadelphia to other cities and towns across the new nation. Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870.”
Although celebrating Independence Day down here on Earth may seem like the perfect occasion of merriment and relaxation, there are those that don’t have the opportunity to pull up a launch chair and stretch their necks skyward toward the colorful explosions that will appear after dusk.
Currently, there are two Americans upon the International Space Station, Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman. Although they cannot be home during the celebration of our Independence, they will be able to enjoy the holiday off from the normal work that they might routinely undertake.
NASA spokesman Daniel Hout gave us insight as to what they may accomplish on their day off.
“On an off-duty day, it’s entirely up to the crew how they spend their day (aside from the required exercise periods), so they could be taking care of optional items like video messages and photos, get-ahead tasks for upcoming experiments or maintenance work, just relaxing and reading or watching TV, staring out the window at the Earth below. Really up to them.”
Although it is not known or certain if they will be able to experience the same fireworks that we see, Astronauts in the past have seen them from above:
“One astronaut, Andre Kuipers, mentioned on Twitter that he had seen fireworks once, but they were very small,” Hout added. “Most fireworks take place beneath cloud layers and other atmospheric obstacles as well, making it even more difficult to pick out.”
As you stare upon the horizon contemplating freedom to the thunderous booms of skyward fireworks, say Happy Independence Day to the heroes in the sky, the occupants of the International Space Station, and wish them well in their journey.
The space station should be visible tonight, barring local cloud cover and the luminescence that the firework displays provide. If you are able to take a photo as the ISS passes by, be sure to post it to Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #spotthestation
Photo Courtesy: Google Images