What Astronauts Really Do In Their Time Off At The ISS

Astronauts working on the International Space Station (ISS) don't simply work, work, work for weeks or months on end. In fact, they're encouraged to take routine breaks and have fun for their mental and physical well-being. According to NASA, crew members can spend up to 6 months aboard the ISS, and it's important that they take time to keep their stress down and their spirits up.

While isolated on the ISS, crew members still maintain a Monday-Friday work schedule, and if they do need to work on the weekend, it's typically only for an hour or so each day. To help maintain a sense of normalcy and camaraderie, the international crew, which typically consists of six people, also agrees to a shared holiday schedule that often recognizes both Eastern and Western Christmas celebrations. So, from stellar stargazing views out of the space station's many windows to scheduled exercise sessions in the weightless gym, here's what it's really like for astronauts to have time off at the ISS.

Astronauts at the ISS have fun, too

According to NASA, astronauts are scheduled time to exercise, relax, and enjoy themselves by Earth-bound flight planners. There's a treadmill, exercise bike, and other equipment to help keep astronauts in shape while they're in reduced gravity. ISS crew members can read books, watch movies (from a digital stash that's updated periodically), and play games during their downtime. There's even limited access to live TV and the internet, and there's a small collection of musical instruments aboard the ISS for crew members to play.

One of the most popular activities for astronauts during their time off is simply watching their home planet spin beneath them and enjoying the fantastic views of space from the many windows of the ISS. Astronaut stargazers are treated to sunrises and sunsets every 45 minutes from their unique vantage point high above Earth. Crew members also bring supplies for their own hobbies for a sense of home, and past astronauts have made models, quilts, and other artwork while on assignment in space. Astronauts can also make "phone calls" to their friends and families back home through a laptop under the right conditions.