Olympians from all over the world are skating, skiing and curling this week towards Olympic gold. Miles above the Earth, astronauts are holding their own weightless Winter Games. Eleven astronauts aboard International Space Station and the shuttle Endeavor recently participated in space skiing, the zero-G luge and weightless figure skating.

Space.com reports that the crew shared their sporty antics by beaming them to Mission Control. Japanese space flyer Soichi Noguchi, on board the $100 billion space station, put on a pair of space skis for his slalom and jump events. Astronaut Kathryn "Kay" Hire flipped and twirled in what were called the ultimate "figure skating triple-lindys." Some astronauts attempted zero-gravity diving, which is somersaulting while rolling in place. Others felt this activity should be reserved for the Summer Olympics. 

And instead of the five-ringed Olympic symbols, the space scientists proudly wore the mission patches sewn onto their space clothes and equipment.

There is a history of sports in space. Astronauts have long filled trash bags with water, jumped on them, and road them around to see how long they can could maintain weightlessness. They have relay races from one end of the space station to the other — and keep in mind the space station is about the size of a Boeing 747. One of NASA’s original astronauts, Alan Shepard, famously played golf on the moon in 1971.

These same acrobatic space scientists have been watching the real Olympics from space. The Endeavor crew is made up of five Americans and one British specialist. The Space Station has two Russians, two Americans and a Japanese space flyer. They say the international spirit of the Olympics represents the essence of world cooperation on the space station. 

Soichi Noguchi, who departed the Space Station on Feb. 19 with the Endeavor, expressed his support of the Olympic athletes. "I know that there are wonderful athletes there, so we're hoping for great medals … Good luck to you all."

Mission Control lauded the space flyers for their Olympic efforts. As they told the crew, "You are officially the only folks who are able to get more hang time then Shaun White.”

For further reading: Astronauts hold Winter Olympics in space.

MNN homepage photo: inhauscreative/iStockphoto