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Commander Steve Swanson and flight engineer Reid Wiseman, both from NASA, and German flight engineer Alexander Gerst are doing six-month tours in orbit. Via live video downlink on July 9, they filled us in on how they spend their days.

What time did you guys punch in this morning, and what does your workday look like?

Swanson: We started at about 7:30, and I have some repairs to do and other various things. I guess it’s about a 12-hour day.

And what about science? What’s on the agenda today?

Gerst: I had a little science experiment already, and the rest of the day we train for the new cargo vehicle coming up next week. Then more science this evening.

Reid, you’ve been a big presence on Twitter, using the handle @astro_reid. That’s something the guys of the Apollo era never had to think about.

Wiseman: Astronauts have always wanted to share their journey with as many people as possible, and the Apollo crews did a phenomenal job with the tools they had. We’re lucky to live in a day where I can take a photograph and mail it straight to our Twitter feeds. It’s a little collateral duty of ours, and we really enjoy it.

Alex, congratulations on Germany’s 7-1 World Cup victory over Brazil. How well have you been able to follow the games?

Gerst: We were pretty lucky that most of the games happened during evening hours, so after our work was done we got some live feeds from Mission Control–when we had bandwidth left. We saw most of the U.S.-Germany game live, and there were a lot of wows [about Germany-Brazil], as you can imagine.

Steve, it was fun and games when Germany beat the U.S., but the U.S.-Russia friction over Ukraine is serious, and the other three members of your crew are Russian. Does that present a problem?

Swanson: No, it doesn’t. We’ve become good friends, we’ve trained together for a long time, we’ve been up here for a long time. Those kinds of issues don’t arise with us.

What do you miss most about life on Earth?

Wiseman: The simple things. Personally I miss a nice warm shower in the morning. On a TV show the other day I saw a family sit down and have a big pizza with a soda, and at that point I was missing pizza more than the shower.

How much do you get to keep in touch with your families?

Wiseman: Once a week we get to do a short videoconference. I’ve been keeping in touch with my wife and kids and even with my mom and dad. It really increases morale on the weekends.

Do you dream differently in space?

Gerst: In the first week I never remembered my dreams, but last week I did have a dream that I was with Reid and we launched on a rocket from Canada to fly up to space. Also when I wake up at night I don’t know if I’m pointed up or down.

I’m sure there are lots of good days in space. But tell me about a bad one–one you were happy to see come to an end.

Swanson: There was a day Alex used a pair of hair clippers and stood a little too close to us. I have to say I was happy when that day came to an end.

How much of your little free time do you spend just gazing at the Earth out the window?

Wiseman: Almost all of it. That’s one of our biggest free-time events.


This appears in the July 21, 2014 issue of TIME.

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