How do astronauts entertain themselves while working in the space station?
Robert Frost, Instructor and Flight Controller at NASA
Those of us on the ground like to remove that concern by keeping them busy working. But, the docs say we have to give them some free time.
The first thing astronauts usually mention is the simple act of looking out of the window. They have the greatest view on Earth, excuse me, off of Earth. They orbit the Earth once every ninety minutes, so there is always a new thing to look at. They talk about the colors and shapes, the lightning, the aurora, and just how beautiful Earth is. We train them on photography before their flight and many of them really take to it and downlink thousands of photos of the Earth.
The crew is away from family and friends for six months, so any means of contact - whether that be email, phone, or videocon, is a priority for their non-working hours.
Sometimes, talking to strangers is what they need. There is a Ham radio onboard ISS and anyone on the ground, with the right equipment and good timing, can talk to the crew.
Some astronauts have played chess with people on the ground, via ham radio or email.
Some of them do things like Don Pettit's "Saturday morning science" in which he performed experiments for kids, videotaped them and put them on Youtube.
Music is important to many astronauts and cosmonauts. Statistically, an astronaut is more likely than the average person to be proficient at playing an instrument. There are a few instruments on board and the occasional jam session will happen.
The odd soccer game has broken out...
And, very rarely, they dress up in gorilla suits and terrorize their crewmates.