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Holiday calendar: Santa never had a view like this!


NASA spacewalker Mike Hopkins steadies a replacement coolant pump module at the end of the International Space Station's robotic arm on Tuesday.

Not even Santa Claus and his reindeer could match the view that NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins had on Christmas Eve as he took a ride on the International Space Station's robotic arm, 260 miles above South America.

Tuesday's "sleigh ride" was part of a spacewalk to install a new refrigerator-sized pump module for the space station's cooling system. In this shot, Hopkins is bringing the pump module from its storage space to its new location. It may be a bit hard to make out — but yes, that’s really him at the end of the robotic arm, with his back to the camera and the boxy apparatus in his arms.

Space station operations had to be curtailed two weeks ago when one of the system's two cooling loops failed. Thanks to the efforts of Hopkins, fellow spacewalker Rick Mastracchio and the rest of NASA's team, things should be back to normal in orbit within days.

This commanding video capture from NASA TV serves as the penultimate entry in the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which has been offering daily views of Earth from space during the month of December. The final calendar entry comes on Christmas morning.

For more Advent calendar goodies, check out The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar.

Previously on the Space Advent Calendar:

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ circles. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.