Image: Astronauts Sunita Williams, Joe Acaba and Akihiko Hoshide
NASA
NASA astronauts Sunita Williams (left), Joe Acaba (center) and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide are pictured aboard the International Space Station during their Expedition 32 mission
By
updated 8/8/2012 7:52:00 PM ET 2012-08-08T23:52:00

The six astronauts living aboard the International Space Station are making time in their busy schedules to watch the 2012 Summer Olympics from space.

In a new letter to Earth, NASA astronaut Joe Acaba, an avid sports fan, describes being able to catch some of the exciting events while in orbit.

"Even with all the work we had to do, we found time to get together and watch the Olympics," Acaba wrote in a post to his blog "The Great Outer Space" on Aug. 7. "Of course everyone knows there is something special about the Olympics and that feeling is not lost in space."

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Acaba and his crewmates were even able to tune in for some of the history-making moments from the 2012 Summer Olympics, which are being held in London.

"We were able to see Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian and Gabby Douglas' nerves of steel as she won the individual Gymnastics gold medal," he said.

Space station's Olympic spirit
Acaba added that his unique surroundings drove home the significance of the Olympics.

"To have two weeks to watch the best athletes of the world compete is a dream come true for any sports enthusiast," Acaba wrote. "To watch them while orbiting above the Earth makes them even more special for us (even though we often miss the end of a competition because we lose satellite coverage)." [ Summer Olympics Cities Seen From Space (Gallery)

Acaba drew parallels between the spirit of the Olympic games, and what the astronauts are trying to accomplish on the International Space Station.

"I have noticed two things while watching these games," Acaba said. "One is that no matter what the sport or which country is winning, we all appreciate the efforts of the athletes and acknowledge their abilities. We truly have an international crew on the space station: three Russian cosmonauts, one Japanese astronaut and two American astronauts (one of Indian descent and one of Puerto Rican descent)."

While the individual astronauts represent their home space agencies, it is essential for the crewmembers to respect and work well with one another to keep the space station running. There are currently six astronauts living aboard the space station: NASA spaceflyers Acaba and Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, Yuri Malenchenko and Sergei Revin, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.

"While we work together as one team we still maintain our national pride," Acaba explained. "Just like watching a basketball game with your buddy that is from a different city, we give each other a hard time but congratulate with sincerity the winning team or individual. It is easy to see why we do this when you look out the window from the ISS. We all come from the same place, Planet Earth."

Astronauts relate to Olympians
The Olympics also shed light on the personal stories of the athletes, and many individuals have had to overcome challenges and setbacks to represent their country on the global stage. This is also true for astronauts, Acaba said.

"Even though we come from different places, we can all relate to many of the obstacles the athletes have faced and overcome," he wrote. "A common theme heard from all the athletes is their pride in representing their country and the hard work they have put in. I understand as I am proud to represent the United States and the Puerto Rican community as an Astronaut."

Still, these characteristics apply to all humans, in any profession and any circumstance.

"As a school teacher, I was proud of the work I did to help develop our future leaders," Acaba said. "I think watching the Olympics reminds us that we share one planet and that we can respect one another no matter what our differences, yet at the same time we can be proud of who we are and what we represent. I look forward to another great week of great competition and sportsmanship and of course work."

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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