Thanksgiving Day feasting will be celebrated in space pretty much the same as here down on Earth. According to SPACE.com, these days the NASA astronauts on the International Space Station can enjoy many Thanksgiving Day traditions, “such as cornbread stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, cherry blueberry cobbler, and, of course, turkey itself.”
“Thanksgiving is not a holiday that the Russians celebrate, but we have found that on orbit the crewmembers celebrate each others’ holidays,” said Vickie Kloeris, manager of the Space Food Systems Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “They will take part in Kevin Ford’s celebration of Thanksgiving, just as American crewmembers will take part in some of the Russian holidays.”
The International Space Station’s menu of Thanksgiving space food will of course be somewhat different. Space food falls into two categories. The freeze-dried food requires added water, and thermostabilized food comes in a pouch. All NASA space food rocketed into orbit “has to meet certain microbiological requirements and have a sufficient shelf life.”
Earthbound picky eaters may not like food from space since the space food definitely tastes different when taste-tested while back on Earth. When in zero-gravity free fall, the sinuses become eternally congested. Since the nose is a big component in influencing taste, the space food has to be made much spicier and zestier than usual. Still, the menu has expanded.
“If you want to go all the way back to Mercury and Gemini, there were no holiday meals back then,” Kloeris told SPACE.com. “All you had was cube foods and tube foods. We’ve definitely expanded greatly the amount of traditional items that we have made available for holiday times, and that only makes sense because when we started having crewmembers stay on space station long term, we knew every year we’d be hitting Thanksgiving and Christmas with somebody.”
If you have ever visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, you would probably remember the freeze-dried ice cream they sold in the shops. But, while popular here on Earth, out in space it’s another matter.
“The freeze-dried ice cream actually only flew once,” on an Apollo mission when an astronaut requested it, Kloeris said. “It’s more like hard cotton candy. Certainly if [astronauts] wanted to request that they could, but that’s not something that adults want. Kids like it; they sell it at the gift shop.”
As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, may we consider the words of these NASA astronauts and remember the reason for the holiday:
“The world itself looks cleaner and so much more beautiful. Maybe we can make it that way—the way God intended it to be—by giving everybody that new perspective from out in space.”
— Roger B Chaffee
“The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.”
– James Irwin