Despite being 230-something miles from the nearest soccer field, the International Space Station (ISS) is as gripped with soccer fever as the arenas in São Paulo, Brazil. They may not have gravity, but the astronauts aboard the ISS are still celebrating friendly international competition by kicking a soccer ball through the air.
The six-member crew on the ISS is as diverse as it is unified, with two Americans from NASA, one German, and three Russian astronauts.
NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson, along with German astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, sent a good luck video down to Earth on June 11 to celebrate the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The video, which NASA posted on Instagram for viewers to enjoy, shows the three astronauts wishing all the teams peaceful and fun games.
"Play hard," says Wiseman in the video (embedded below), "and we'll be watching on the International Space Station." Wiseman and Swanson are fostering a bit of gentle rivalry with their German colleague Gerst as the three of them ready for the U.S.-Germany match on June 26.
One of the Russian astronauts, Alexander Skvortsov, was also living on the ISS during the previous World Cup games in 2010, which took place in South Africa. Skvortsov is, as per his biography, a soccer fan, and will no doubt be watching the games with his fellow cosmonauts.
In the spirit of friendly competition the three astronauts played a zero-gravity game of soccer for the folks back home. Floating through the station's labs, waving their legs in the air and attempting to kick the soccer ball to their teammates seems easier said than done. It does, however, look incredibly fun. Swanson expertly maneuvers the buoyant soccer ball with a bicycle kick that, while difficult to execute on Earth, does not seem to be too difficult in zero-g cosmoball-a sport many space fans are hoping to be able to play one day.
The ISS is approximately the size of a soccer field, though considerably more comfortable. It now sports more habitable space than "a conventional six-bedroom house", and is complete with a gymnasium and a bay window. It has been orbiting around Earth for 14 years and has housed astronauts and scientists from 15 different countries. The station, like the World Cup, is one of a few ways through which international peace and goodwill is fostered.