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Bonus: Happy Holidays from NASA!

Season 1Dec 12, 2022

Before we return with season five in 2023, celebrate the holidays with us! Join Goddard news chief Rob Garner, NASA social media lead Stephanie L. Smith, and astronaut Shannon Walker on this special, holiday-themed bonus episode.

NASA's Curious Universe

Introducing NASA’s Curious Universe

Our universe is a wild and wonderful place. Join NASA astronauts, scientists and engineers on a new adventure each episode — all you need is your curiosity. Explore the lifesaving systems of spacesuits, break through the sound barrier, and search for life among the stars. First-time space explorers welcome.

Episode Description: Before we return with season five in 2023, celebrate the holidays with us! Join Goddard news chief Rob Garner, NASA social media lead Stephanie L. Smith, and astronaut Shannon Walker on this special, holiday-themed bonus episode.

NASA's Curious Universe


[Song: Your Day Instrumental by Otto]

Rob Garner

NASA doesn’t do things small. Enthusiasm is a very common trait among all of us here.

Rob Garner

When you take something like the Webb Telescope, and it opens its eyes for the first time and offers us an entirely new view of the universe around us, you can’t help but celebrate.

Rob Garner

And that celebration is not exclusive to NASA, it is not exclusive even just to the partners with NASA on the mission. It’s a celebration that belongs to every person.

[Song: Curiosity Holiday Main Theme by SYSTEM Sounds]

HOST PADI BOYD: This is NASA’s Curious Universe. Our universe is a wild and wonderful place. I’m your host Padi Boyd and in this podcast, NASA is your tour guide.

HOST PADI BOYD: Welcome to another bonus episode! We like to share these episodes between seasons, while we’re working on what’s to come. Season 5 is well underway, and will debut in early 2023. In the meantime, we’re preparing not only for the show, but for the end of the year and the holiday season!

HOST PADI BOYD: So while we’re stuffing turkeys and stringing lights, we wanted to take this opportunity to give you some updates on topics we’ve explored in the past and take a look at the lighter side of NASA! How does NASA celebrate the holidays? The traditional ones and maybe some you haven’t yet heard of.

[Song: Seasons Greetings Underscore by Elias Trevino]

Rob Garner

I’m Rob Garner, the News Chief in the Office of Communications at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. My job entails making sure that all of the important stuff that NASA is doing gets out to the people who need to know what’s going on. Baked into the NASA charter is the notion that what NASA does is to be communicated to the broadest practicable audience, and that’s where I and my colleagues come in.

HOST PADI BOYD: Rob is a fan of fun and nerdy NASA history! He also leads one of NASA’s communications teams, which works to make science relatable. This team not only publishes articles, videos, and podcast episodes, but also joins in on social media conversations and celebrations to get the NASA message out there. So Rob’s taken part in a lot of holidays – from sinister Halloween posts to heart-shaped Valentine’s nebulae.

HOST PADI BOYD: Rob and his team are always looking for new ways to celebrate science! Here at NASA, we partake in quite a few “non-traditional” holidays – from Star Wars’ May the 4th, to International Observe the Moon night, and more!

Rob Garner

Another holiday that might not surprise you to learn has a number of NASA based-aficionados would be Pi Day, March 14, 314.

[Song: Whistling in the Alley Instrumental by Lumbroso]

Rob Garner

Back in 2008, one of the video producers just decided on a lark to start a Pi Day celebration. So at lunch on the appointed day a handful of us had procured pies and brought them in and over lunch just ate these pies.

Rob Garner

Goodness it’s snowballed since then. It’s been an annual tradition in our midst now for many years. It just continued to grow and grow and grow, I think 2019 was the last observed Pi Day. I think there was something like 70 or more submissions. Pies and torts and quiches and pizzas of every conceivable variety.

HOST PADI BOYD: Not only does NASA bring the science element with pi, 3.14…, but employees couldn’t help but throw some of their work into their creations, modeling their entries after exciting NASA missions and spacecraft!

Rob Garner

There have been things like James Webb Space Telescope, “PIE”-mary mirror pie was one. There was an o-“PIE”-ris Rex, OSIRIS REx being the asteroid sample return mission. My own contribution, I forget what year it was, but I made a very disastrous Klingon Rokeg blood pie that just spilled raspberry juices all over the table. That did not place well.

HOST PADI BOYD: Holidays, besides being a good reason to eat pie, bring people together. They let us pause, and celebrate. But for astronauts far from Earth on the International Space station, they can be challenging, so we do our best to make them extra special.

HOST PADI BOYD: Astronauts may not get to spend the time with their families in- person, but they do get some special treats. From Hanukkah socks and Santa hats, to freeze-wrapped turkeys and New Year’s harmonicas – our explorers in space get a little piece of home brought up for different celebrations.

HOST PADI BOYD: And as you may remember from our Day In Space episode, birthdays on station usually involve some singing.

[[Astronauts singing “Happy birthday” on the International Space Station]]

[Song: Magical Sleigh Ride Underscore by Hopkins Mahoney]

HOST PADI BOYD: For astronaut Shannon Walker, neither of her missions included a birthday celebration on the International Space Station, but she did get to take in a few out of this world celebrations.

Shannon Walker

I did not get to celebrate a birthday, you know, I went just around it.

Shannon Walker

But I did a lot of holidays, I got Thanksgiving up there twice. And then this last flight, I got to celebrate Christmas twice because we celebrate Christmas on December 25 in the U.S. and so of course, we’re going to celebrate that. The Russian cosmonauts go with the Russian Orthodox calendar and church and so they celebrate Christmas later. So we got to have another Christmas celebration. So, that was really special too.

HOST PADI BOYD: NASA loves a celebration, and we have a lot to celebrate! Between mission milestones and important moments in history, to broader national and international holidays, communicators across the agency work to spread the joy and fun of NASA’s work!

HOST PADI BOYD: There is a big team focused on getting NASA’s word out and engaging with the public to spread information, fun, and often some holiday cheer.

[Song: Summer Dew Underscore by Abbott Dowd]

Stephanie Smith

Hi, my name is Stephanie L. Smith, and I am the Social Media Manager at NASA Headquarters.

Stephanie Smith

Social media is all about conversations. It’s about talking, and listening, and responding. Nobody really wants to hang out with someone at a party who only talks about themselves and then you ask them a question and they walk away. Same thing with social media. We don’t just show up and tell people things about America’s space program. We listen to what they have to say. We see what they’re excited about. We see what they’re confused by. And we stick around for the rest of the conversation.

HOST PADI BOYD: With social media, NASA can join in on fun conversations online and hopefully add a bit of science or wonder to people’s holiday plans.

Stephanie Smith

Take Halloween, for example. Hashtag Halloween is always going to trend, people are always going to want to share pictures of their costumes. So one thing that we like to do is invite people to show us their space themed costumes, whether it was them, their kids, their friends, but maybe we use it as a chance to share other resources. So if they’re young children, we might be able to share coloring pages or activities. We have a website called NASA Space Place that has lots of resources for young children.

Stephanie Smith

If the kid is really excited about the James Webb Space Telescope or about the Orion capsule, we can share those resources with parents and caregivers and help build a stronger relationship between the public and our missions.

Stephanie Smith

Joining these holiday conversations is an opportunity to bring some beauty, awe and wonder, some perspective, to people’s lives. It’s fun, it’s just fun. It’s fun, and it’s a chance to join a global conversation. And remind people that NASA has a sense of humor, that NASA is made of people. We might be the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but we’re not robots. And we like joining conversations, we like talking about what we do. If we have a chance to do that on a holiday like Valentine’s Day by sharing a heart shaped crater, or a rose shaped nebula. Fantastic.

HOST PADI BOYD: NASA’s workforce might be made of people, but there are a lot of robots around here too! And some of our robots are on social media, joining conversations and giving updates. Stephanie had the chance to portray one of the Mars rovers on Twitter, and ring in Thanksgiving as the Curiosity Rover with people across the country.

[Song: Sparkles Instrumental by Carter]

Stephanie Smith

One of the best parts of my job was getting to portray the Curiosity rover on Twitter: at Mars Curiosity. We did the account, and still do, in the first person. So, Curiosity is there to tell you what she did at work today. Work just happens to be on Mars. The very first Thanksgiving that I worked as Curiosity was marvelous. We got well wishes from around the country, from other people who were you know, traveling or might have been alone on the holiday. They related to Curiosity, being far from home, on her own, on the road. And I like to say that the rover is alone, but she’s not lonely. Having the connection of social media and the conversations there is an important point of connection and getting to portray that character made me feel connected to people far and wide.

HOST PADI BOYD: Another important holiday for the Mars Curiosity rover was its first anniversary on the Red Planet. Curiosity spent a year collecting important information about Mars, but our scientists and engineers snuck a bit of fun in there too.

Stephanie Smith

Aug. 5, 2013, so the one year land-aversary for the rover on the Red Planet. Some of the team members on the SAM instrument, that’s Sample Analysis at Mars, found that the instrument makes tones and that they could program it to play Happy Birthday.

[[Rover Happy Birthday song in tones]]

HOST PADI BOYD: The happy birthday song was an opportunity to celebrate with NASA fans around the world, and to commemorate the huge accomplishment of doing science on another planet!

[[Rover Happy Birthday song ends]]

HOST PADI BOYD: Our mission milestones are worth celebrating in their own right, but in 2021 we were able to experience a holiday and an incredible step in understanding our universe on the same day.

HOST PADI BOYD: Dec. 25th, 2021, was an extra special Christmas morning for space fans around the world.

[[Sound of the Webb launch countdown]]

HOST PADI BOYD: At 7:20 a.m. Eastern time, an Ariane 5 rocket launched off the pad in Korou, French Guiana – sending the James Webb Space Telescope onto its long-awaited journey to space.

[[Launch broadcast sounds continue]]

HOST PADI BOYD: For everyone here at NASA, it was an extra special treat to behold. For Rob, it was the opportunity for some quiet celebration with his family.

[Song: Serene Seasons Underscore by Elias Ramani]

Rob Garner

My son was just over a year old that Christmas morning. He was not a late sleeper then. Still isn’t. And so for us, at least, we were up anyway that morning, regardless of the fact that the Webb Telescope was launching.

Rob Garner

We had our Christmas tree behind us, and I’m sitting there in the dark, watching the webstream of the launch and the deployment. I had the Christmas tree lights reflecting off the screen and then the glow of the monitor that was the only light in the whole house for those first couple of hours before the rest of the home woke up to come down and open gifts. But what a gift to have gotten.

Rob Garner

And now we have an indelibly, inextricably linked NASA milestone that you can bet is going to be mentioned for Christmases hence to come.

[Song: Winter Days Instrumental by Palmer Samuels]

HOST PADI BOYD: Whether we’re bringing people together to watch a rocket launch or observe the solar eclipse, providing the tools – and the fun – to learn about our universe is one of the best parts of the job.

Rob Garner

Back in 2017 when we had the total solar eclipse that a vast percentage of North America was witness to, I remember we had at the Visitor Center crowds and crowds of people. Everybody had their solar eclipse viewing approved safety glasses. Tbre were people who had brought their own pinhole projectors to observe the eclipse. We had a couple of solar observing stations telescopes of our own.

[[Sound from the Goddard Visitor’s Center gathering, cheering and whislting.]]

Rob Garner

It’s not every day that what’s going on in space is something that someone has the ability to observe it on their own. I remember us on the loudspeakers counting down oh it’s such and such minutes until totality.

[[Cheering, clapping, whistling]]

Rob Garner

It’s just great to see so many people of so many backgrounds coming together for observing something like that. There were families here with their young kids, there were teenagers.

Rob Garner

It’s a perfect example of the kind of thing like you don’t have to be a doctoral student, you can participate in these kinds of celestial events and still take away something very awe-inspiring from it.

Rob Garner

Whenever we can connect the work that we’re doing at NASA on behalf of people, all people, to something that you can go out and see for yourself, it makes the job that much easier to drive home what we’re doing and why it’s important. When we get a leg up from a magnificent planetary alignment. Thanks universe, we owe you one for that.

HOST PADI BOYD: In case you couldn’t tell by this point in our episode, we here at NASA look for any occasion to bring people together – virtually or in person.

[Song: The Perfect Recipe Underscore by Wilson]

HOST PADI BOYD: Every fall we encourage stargazers across the world to join us in International Observe the Moon night, a yearly event to appreciate our closest celestial neighbor. In the spring we encourage people to join a Pi day celebration, and with every major mission milestone we like to remind people that these celebrations aren’t just for scientists – they’re for everyone!

Rob Garner

Whether it’s Pi Day, whether it’s International Observe the Moon Night, no matter what it is, you don’t need to be a scientist to partake in it. Space exploration, it’s for all of us. We don’t send missions out into space just to send them out into space, we do it because there’s an ingrained aspect of the human condition to explore, to seek out that which is not known, and just to learn.

Rob Garner

And so it’s only natural that whether it’s a social media holiday or an event that brings people closer to each other, to discuss science or not, building those human connections is what it takes to really make meaningful the overall work that NASA does.

Stephanie Smith

NASA is your space agency. We want to hear from you. We want to know what you’re excited about what you’re curious about. We are on this journey of exploration together. Everyone’s invited. And we’ll see you online.

[Song: Magical Mushrooms Underscore by Doddy]

HOST PADI BOYD Before we leave you to celebrate the holidays, we wanted to provide you some updates from past season’s episodes. The James Webb Space Telescope team continues to release beautiful images and incredible findings. Not only have we seen galaxies in new detail, we already know more about exoplanets! Plus, we saw the rings of Neptune in ways we never have before. You can see all these images and more at

HOST PADI BOYD: You might have also heard about the DART impact – an exciting event where we sent a spacecraft into an asteroid! If you want to hear more about this exciting achievement, check out

HOST PADI BOYD: And finally, on November 16th of this year, 2022, the Artemis I mission launched off the pad at Kennedy on its way to the moon! You can hear about the incredible SLS rocket that is taking us to the moon and beyond in our Season 3 episode, “Rocket Assembly Required”.

HOST PADI BOYD: We have many more exciting adventures to come! So keep an eye, and an ear, out for early 2023 when we’ll start releasing the next season of NASA’s Curious Universe. We’ll explore gravitational waves, track wildfires, and visit an Australian rocket launch site! Until then, stay curious and happy holidays from all of us here at NASA!

[Song: Curiosity Holiday Outro by SYSTEM Sounds]

HOST PADI BOYD: This is NASA’s Curious Universe. This episode was written and produced by Christina Dana. Our executive producer is Katie Konans. The Curious Universe team includes Maddie Arnold, and Micheala Sosby, with support from Christian Elliott.

HOST PADI BOYD: Our extra special holiday theme song was composed by Matt Russo and Andrew Santaguida of SYSTEM Sounds.

HOST PADI BOYD: If you liked this episode, please let us know by leaving us a review, tweeting about the show and tagging @NASA, or sharing NASA’s Curious Universe with a friend. Learn more about Venus and our upcoming missions by visiting

HOST PADI BOYD: Still curious about NASA? You can send us questions about this episode or a previous one and we’ll try to track down the answers! You can email a voice recording or send a written note to Go to for more information.

Producer Christina Dana: Padi, do have an y NASA holiday traditions?

Host Padi Boyd: I have several NASA-themed Christmas ornaments that are hanging on the Christmas tree every year. I’ve also got a whole bunch of Star Trek ornaments on my tree and its been really cool to see how science fiction has been walking hand-in-hand with science fact all these decades.