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Astronauts Watch Summer Olympics From Space

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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. (NASA)

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" Tuesday (Aug. 7). "Of course everyone knows there is something special about the Olympics and that feeling is not lost in space."

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."