Freeze-dried turkey and vacuum-packed trimmings: how astronauts do Thanksgiving in space

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Mar 26, 2021, 10:00 PM EDT (Updated)

When you’re spending Thanksgiving aboard the International Space Station (ISS), prepare for it to be nothing like Grandma’s.

“It’s going to be a little bit different up here in space, but I’m going to try to make it as much like home as we can,” said NASA Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough in a video where he gave everyone back on the home planet a taste of the astronauts’ freeze-dried feast.

Your turkey (burnt or otherwise) has nothing on the irradiated smoked turkey with rehydratable cornbread dressing that Kimbrough will be sharing with fellow astronauts Peggy Whitson, Thomas Pesquet, Sergey Ryzhikov, Andrey Borisenko, and Oleg Novitskiy. Dehydrated green bean-mushroom casserole, broccoli au gratin, mashed potatoes, and candied sweet potatoes are also on the menu—just add water. Dessert will be thermostabilized blueberry cobbler with sweet tea as you drink it on Earth.  

Earthly table manners don’t usually apply in space. Astronauts tend to open packages of vacuum-packed snacks and let them float nearby for whenever they need a bite.

"Since shuttles don't come with tables or chairs—or gravity, for that matter—the usual rituals of dining tend to go out the window," recalls astronaut Fred Gregory, who is one of only two people to have had Thanksgiving dinner in space twice, during missions in 1989 and 1991.

Thanksgiving tends to be an exception to the whole anti-gravity grazing thing. Astronauts will pile their turkey and fixings onto metal trays, which are equipped with Velcro for obvious reasons.

NASA really is ready for everything. The space agency’s Food Systems Laboratory has made sure to stock a full Thanksgiving dinner every year that astronauts are scheduled to spend the holiday in space, and that also goes for Christmas and New Year’s. The food lab also keeps finding ways to level up the flavor factor on astronaut edibles. There are more things the ISS will factor in to make it feel like home, or at least Earth. Since Kimbrough feels it just isn’t Thanksgiving without football, mission control is going to beam up some live games to watch after the last bite of that cobbler.

An unspoken plus of orbiting 254 miles away from Earth on Thanksgiving Day? It’s the best excuse ever to avoid the chaos of Black Friday.

(via Motherboard)