The crew of the ISS show off their football skills.
Whether you call it soccer, football, or futbol, the World Cup is a massively popular global sporting event that even the astronauts on the International Space Station will be watching. United States astronauts Steve Swanson, Reid Wiseman, and German astronaut Alexander Gerst shared their best wishes for all the teams competing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which begins today. Gerst says, "We want to wish all the teams and fans on the ground and in Brazil a great World Cup! Have fun and have peaceful games. May the best win and viel Glück!"
The three astronauts show off some soccer moves in microgravity, executing spins and bicycle kicks that would make any Earth-bound player a little jealous. The ISS is a microgravity environment because it is in low earth orbit, where the Earth's gravity is only slightly weaker than at the surface. The astronauts experience weightlessness in the ISS because the station is in a continuous state of freefall, resulting in the apparent zero gravity experienced by the astronauts (and the football).
Sanctions imposed against Russia by the United States over Russia's actions toward Ukraine have resulted in tensions over the ISS. In April, NASA suspended contact with Russia, except for matters related to the ISS. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin responded to US sanctions by threatening to stop letting the US use its Soyez rockets to transport astronauts to the ISS. Rogozin wrote on Twitter, "The United States introduced sanctions against our space industry... We warned them, we will reply to statements with statements, to actions with actions. I propose that the United States delivers its astronauts to the ISS with the help of a trampoline."
NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011, and has relied on Russia for transport to the ISS since then, but new options are becoming available. Privately owned space transport service SpaceX recently unveiled the Dragon V2, a new spacecraft capable of carrying up to seven astronauts. NASA hopes to use the Dragon V2 for manned mission by 2017 or 2018. SpaceX's previous craft, the Drabon V1, has performed three unmanned missions since 2012, delivering supplies to the ISS.