Christmas gifts have arrived at the International Space Station, courtesy of Japan. A Japanese cargo ship pulled up at the orbiting lab Tuesday, four days after launching. The capsule—called Kounotori, or white stork—contains nearly 5 tons of food, water, batteries and other supplies, reports the AP. NASA says there also are Christmas presents for the two Americans, three Russians, and one Frenchman on board.
Barely two weeks ago, a Russian supply ship en route to the space station exploded shortly after liftoff. At the same time, one of NASA's main suppliers, SpaceX, is grounded. So the Japanese delivery is especially welcome. The astronauts need the six new lithium-ion batteries for next month's spacewalks. They will replace the old nickel-hydrogen batteries that store energy generated by the station's big solar panels. (The ship also carries a whip for space junk.)