ISS astronauts send out-of-this-world New Year's message from Times Square

Happy New Year's from the ISS!Last night's Times Square New Year's Eve celebration gave 2013 a great sendoff, but an extra special treat from the folks at NASA sent the party into orbit, as special guest Mike Massimino took the stage with messages from his fellow astronauts, both on Earth and currently on board the International Space Station.

The festivities started at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, and kept going until shortly after the ball dropped at midnight. However, right around 9:47 p.m. is when the party went 'out of this world', as NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, who flew missions on both the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Space Shuttle Atlantis (and appeared in episodes of The Big Bang Theory as a fictionalized version of himself), took the stage to help host the event.

In addition to his hosting duties, Massimino introduced a recorded greeting from fellow NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, who was on the space station from May to November of this year, and another video staring NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, who are all currently on board the International Space Station. The only thing missing was an appearance from Wakata's little companion robot, Kirobo.

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Unfortunately, we're a time when NASA budgets are being slashed, missions like NASA's Cassini spacecraft are potentially in jeopardy, and new, exciting missions (like going to Europa) are likely to be scrapped or put far on the back-burner. Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to breathe new life into our interest in space exploration. The science done on the space station, and the explorations of the various spacecraft and robotic rovers we have out in the solar system, aren't just for a whim and they aren't just for expanding our reach. They also provide crucial science and technological advances that help us here on Earth, and will carry us into the future.

Since, in our day-to-day lives, we probably forget about the people orbiting far overhead and the exceptional work they do, public appearances like this are a great way to promote their work and keep up the enthusiasm for the space program and human space exploration in general.

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